In Henrico, pandemic worsens achievement gap for Black, Hispanic students

HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) — Black and Hispanic students are falling behind their peers in Henrico, according to the latest data from the Virginia Department of Education, as the pandemic has exacerbated racial disparities in the county’s schools.

In the last year of testing before the pandemic, Hispanic students passed their SOLs at a rate 8.6% lower than the average student, while Black students fell 14.9% lower than the average student.

After the pandemic, data shows the gap widened for both groups, to 12.7% and 20.7%, respectively. That could reflect, in part, the continued effects of Henrico’s teacher vacancies.

Data analysis from 8News showed that the highest levels of teacher vacancies in Henrico County are clustered in schools with more non-white students.

Both Henrico and Chesterfield performed very close to the state average, with Henrico gaining some ground on its two closest neighbors, Richmond and Hanover. (Data from VDOE)

Data also revealed differences between subject matters. While most tests followed a dip-and-recover pattern from 20-21 to 21-22 (no tests were administered during the 2019-2020 school year), writing scores continued to decline even as pass rates in other subjects recovered.

That reflected a pattern seen across the commonwealth, where writing scores have been declining for years — even before the pandemic massively disrupted instruction.

Localities were also allowed to substitute an alternative local assessment for writing in 20-21 instead of administering the state SOL.

“When we look at the writing scores for 2020-2021, it does not represent all grade 8 students, because there were a number of school divisions who chose to administer that local alternative,” a VDOE official said.

The county has not yet issued an official statement on the SOL results but has planned a special meeting for next Thursday to address the data.

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