[Sun Gazette editorials represent the viewpoint of Sun Gazette Newspapers, which provides content to, but is otherwise unaffiliated with, InsideNoVa or Rappahannock Media LLC.]

The Virginia Department of Education last week was out with 2018-19 Standards of Learning (SOLs) results across the commonwealth.

The pass rates ebb and flow year to year for a variety of reasons, but one unfortunate reality is the ongoing existence of persistent achievement gaps – and in the newly released data, differences in performance remain among various racial and ethnic groups.

It’s a lot more complicated a situation than simply saying “Group X does better than Group Y which does better than Group Z” on the exams. Immigrant students who have yet to fully learn the language obviously might have difficulties with the testing. And score results often are seen to be as much a factor of economics than of race or ethnicity.

But at the same time, school officials seem unwilling or unable to get to the root causes of some of the disparities. Perhaps renaming school buildings and other virtue-signaling is a lot easier than the elbow grease and out-of-the-box thinking required to make sure ALL students have the opportunity to succeed at a top level.

Improving outcomes across racial, ethnic and economic spectra should be the laser-like focus of school leaders. While SOLs are not perfect vessels for understanding the nuances of student achievement, they remain the best way to identify broad areas of success – and failure.

Elected and appointed school leaders, in Virginia and elsewhere, need to either get more aggressive in addressing the issue, or get out and turn the situation over to those who will. Otherwise, another generation of students will come and go, ill-served by the educational system that should have its best interests at heart.

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