Report Reveals Pandemic’s Profound Impact on Education in Virginia | News, Sports, Jobs

FILE Virginia Education Secretary Aimee Guidera gestures during an event at the Capitol Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, in Richmond, Va. and less qualified than before the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s teaching workforce is smaller, happier and less skilled than before the COVID-19 pandemic, the nonpartisan Virginia Legislative Watchdog said Monday in a report that urged the state to increase funding to address the problem.

Staff members of the Joint Audit and Legislative Review Commission, or JLARC, also told lawmakers that in addition to previously reported declines in academic achievement, school staff were experiencing more behavioral and mental health issues at home. students.

“We all knew in our hearts and from our personal experiences that COVID-19 was having incredibly terrible effects on our families and children. And now, as we all just heard, we have hard data — cold hard data — telling us that we are in crisis,” Education Secretary Aimee Rogstad Guidera told lawmakers after the presentation in Richmond.

To compile its report on the impact of the pandemic on K-12 public education, JLARC staff reviewed academic research; conducted interviews and focus groups; analyzed data on school personnel, assessments and school results; and conducted a survey of all school divisions and a “representing” sample of school staff.

School district leaders overwhelmingly told the commission that the pandemic has made recruiting and retaining teachers more difficult.

In August, the Virginia Department of Education collected data from 111 school divisions and found approximately 3,300 teaching vacancies, which is a 25% increase from what those divisions had reported in August. October 2021. A growing number of teachers are also not fully licensed or absent. -field – meaning they teach a different subject than their certification area – according to the report.

In responding to the JLARC survey, teachers cited issues ranging from student behavior and mental health to low pay, “disrespect” parents from the public and a higher workload due to vacancies as contributing to lower job satisfaction, according to the report.

District leaders thought “more expensive and longer-term changes” such as raising wages, reducing class sizes and minimizing standardized testing would be most helpful in addressing those concerns, the report said.

JLARC also highlighted issues with students missing classes or not having the internet access or technology to fully participate in virtual learning during the height of the pandemic.

About 19% of students statewide were chronically absent — missing 10% or more days — during the 2021-2022 school year, only a portion of which was due to quarantine and illness, according to The report.

After students returned to in-person learning, behavior was a major issue, school staff told JLARC, with most reporting that the number and severity of behavioral issues increased.

Half of school staff also said that student anxiety or mental health was a “very serious problem” says the report.

The JLARC report analyzed data from state Department of Education surveys in 2021 and 2022 to find that 3% of middle school students and 4% of high school students reported having attempted suicide at least once. time. According to the same data, 10% of colleges had considered it, as well as 13% of high school students.

The report, which found high vacancy rates for school psychologists, recommended that the General Assembly allow psychologists in other fields to obtain a provisional license for a school setting.

He also suggested that lawmakers: create and fund a temporary program to improve math education for elementary school students; provide temporary funding to hire more teaching assistants; and providing temporary funding for retention and recruitment bonuses, as well as tuition assistance to help teachers obtain a full license.

Republican Del. Lee Ware, a retired teacher, said Monday’s findings were “appalling.”

Democratic Sen. Jeremy McPike told Guidera that the state has been underfunding public education for two decades.

“I hope there is a substantial and meaningful position from the governor in the budget to fund these schools,” he said.

Youngkin will release a budget proposal to lawmakers later this year that will serve as the starting point for the 2023 General Assembly session. He has also previously called on school districts to get to work allocating federal relief funds not previously spent on education.

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