Jillian Balow

Virginia Secretary of Education Jillian Balow

Prince William County Schools saw gains in almost all subject areas on the 2021-22 Standards of Learning exams, though pass rates still remained below pre-COVID levels. 

Across the school system’s in-person test-takers, pass rates on the state exams increased in reading (from 72% to 75%), mathematics (54% to 67%), history and social studies (59% to 70%) and science (57% to 63%). The one major subject that saw a decline in scores was writing, where 70% of takers passed, down from 79%.

Economically disadvantaged and English learners also saw significant increases from the mostly-virtual 2020-21 school year. Pass rates among economically disadvantaged students jumped six points to 64% in reading and 17 points in mathematics, to 56%. English learners, meanwhile, saw a 10-point increase in reading, to 39%, and an 18-point jump in math, to 41%.

“Although we have realized increases in reading and math scores and are above the state average, our SOL scores reaffirm the negative impact the pandemic has had on our students’ learning,” Prince William Schools Superintendent LaTanya McDade said in a prepared statement.

Countywide, scores were still below those from the 2018-19 school year (the state dropped the spring 2020 tests after COVID-19 first closed schools buildings). In 2019, 79% of students passed their reading tests, 78% passed the writing portion and 83% passed in mathematics. 

Those math scores have taken the biggest fall since the onset of the pandemic, leading the school system to make up investments in math coaches and tutors with pandemic-relief money and in McDade’s four-year strategic plan that was adopted last year.

“Our ambitious strategic plan helps us ensure we are on the right track to navigate he journey back to pre-pandemic levels by investing in our instructional core and strengthening infrastructures along the way toward greater equitable and accessible academic achievement for all students,” she added. 

Prince William’s score trends roughly mirror those seen across the commonwealth, according to data released Thursday by the Virginia Department of Education. Across all groups statewide, reading pass rates went from 78% in 2018-19 to 69% in 2020-21 and 73% in 2021-22. Math pass rates went from 82% to 54% and 66% over the same period. 

“The bottom line is that in-person instruction matters. When we compare the 2021-2022 data with achievement in 2020-2021 — when the majority of our students were learning remotely or on hybrid schedules — we can see the difference our teachers made once they were reunited with their students in their classrooms,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said in a statement Thursday. “I want to thank all of our teachers for everything they did last year to begin what will be a multiyear recovery effort.”

In announcing the results, VDOE and Balow focused primarily on the way scores were still lagging pre-pandemic levels. Since taking office, Gov. Glenn Youngkin and his education leaders have painted a largely negative picture of the state’s schools, arguing in a May report that testing, grading and accreditation standards in public schools had been slipping up until the Republican administration took over in January. 

Thursday’s news release placed the 2018-19 and 2021-22 score comparisons front and center, leaving the gains from last year at the end of the release. 

“Results from Standards of Learning and other state assessments taken by Virginia students during the 2021-2022 school year reflect the continuing impact of prolonged school closures on student learning,” the release states. “Despite one-year gains in most subjects, student achievement in all areas remained well below pre-pandemic levels. The 2021-2022 school year marked the return to in-person learning for all 132 Virginia school divisions and the return to normal levels of student participation in the state testing program.”

As they did before the pandemic, students in Manassas and Manassas Park tested below those in the county, though those smaller school systems also saw increases in scores from last year. 

In Manassas, pass rates jumped in reading (47% to 57%), history and social studies (34% to 56%), math (27% to 49%) and science (37% to 45%). Writing pass rates fell from 71% to 69%. Manassas City Public Schools has the highest percentage of English-language learners in the state, with about 60% of students being non-native English speakers. 

In Manassas Park City Schools, reading passes went from 59% to 60%, history and social studies from (50% to 59%), mathematics from 38% to 51%, and science from 42% to 48%. The school system did not report writing scores in 2020-21; 62% passed the section in 2021-22.


Jared Foretek covers the Manassas area and regional news across Northern Virginia. Reach him at jforetek@insidenova.com


Jared Foretek covers Prince William County Public Schools, the city of Manassas and transportation news across Northern Virginia. Reach him at jforetek@insidenova.com

(1) comment

Will Williams

Untenured student teachers ought to get that turned around. Our leaders are failing us guys wake up.

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