I am in my fortieth year of service representing the 36th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. I am a retired teacher and school administrator, having been employed by the Fairfax County Public Schools for nearly 30 years. Serving as your delegate is now my full-time focus.

This website is intended to assist us in communicating with each other. I hope that you will subscribe to my electronic newsletter, Virginia e-News, that is emailed every Wednesday. Each week I share my thoughts on a pressing issue or human interest item in the form of a commentary. Read this week’s commentary below. In the newsletter you’ll also find a bulletin board of local information and a calendar of events happening in our community.

Please let me hear from you on your needs and interests. I am honored to represent you and here to serve you as effectively as I can.

Ken Plum.

Delegate Ken Plum’s Commentary

Honesty Gap

Pleased to be part of the ribbon cutting for the new HCA Emergency facility at the corner of Routes 7 and 123. Complete emergency room with all support. For more information on the facility and services, go to https://hcavirginia.com/campaigns/tysons-emergency

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as The Nation’s Report Card, measures the educational achievement and progress of the Nation’s students at established grades and ages with data that can be used to compare educational programs across state lines. According to NAEP, in 2019 the last year for which numbers are available because of the interruption of programs by COVID, Virginia students at the fourth-grade level scored third highest in the Nation for math performance and at the eighth-grade level scored seventh highest in the Nation. Virginia students ranked ninth in the country in reading performance. Appreciation is due to the parents, teachers and administrators who have made Virginia public schools among the best in the Nation.

Rather than getting a shout out of appreciation from the new administration in Richmond for the work being done in our public schools, a new 34-page report issued by the Department of Education does all it can to erode confidence in public schools and to create a false narrative that our schools are failing. Governor Youngkin presented the report flanked by his Secretary of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction, both of whom were recruited from other states and come with reputations of criticizing public schools in favor of charter and other schools. The report, “Our Commitment to Virginians: High Expectations and Excellence for All Students,” along with an earlier report suggesting critical race theory and divisive concepts are in current school curriculum are the poorest and least helpful reports I have ever seen on public education.

The old saying that “figures do not lie, but liars figure” comes to mind when reading the most recent report. The report is heavy on data designed to make the case, but the data are often misinterpreted and misrepresented. School year 2020-2021 was one of the most challenging for the schools because of closures and virtual programming, but data from the year are blended in with regular years when convenient to make a point. Scores on the NAEP tests are compared with State Standards of Quality to attempt to challenge Virginia’s standing among the states as indicated above with what they term an “honesty gap.” They make no mention that the two scores are not comparable as their definitions of proficient are drastically different. NAEP officials have consistently advised against making use of such comparisons in making policy. The report itself creates an ”honesty gap” that raises suspicion about the remainder of its content.

The Governor has made clear his support for charter schools, and one of the outcomes of a report as this one is to build a case for charter schools as an alternative to public schools. Under current law charter schools can be established in the state, but few have been established because of the success of the public schools. There is no doubt that educational programs at all levels can be improved with adequate resources. Creating an honesty gap with what is happening in our schools is not a way to go about it. 

Previous commentaries are available here.