In this week’s newsletter, I discuss Virginia’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, share our final LGBTQ+ History Month highlight, and reflect on engagements from this past week. Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter and for staying informed.
Virginia’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Scores
This past Monday, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, was released. Monday’s release provides necessary information about nationwide student performance in mathematics and reading.
What is NAEP? The NAEP, given every two years, is a national test drawn from a sampling of schools that allows comparisons among states. Because of the pandemic, the test was delayed last year and given early this year instead.
As educators expected, this year’s NAEP assessments would show steep declines in 4th and 8th grade (the two grades that are assessed) reading and mathematics scores across the nation. An unprecedented global pandemic placed considerable strains on students, families, and education districts throughout Virginia and the country. The NAEP scores for Virginia and for many states demonstrate that we must not only make up for learning loss but also bring even more intentionality to improving our public education. Fully funding education, supporting and resourcing early childhood education, and deploying known pedagogical strategies that work are all necessary initial steps.
Improving education outcomes for all of Virginia’s students requires that we work together in a bipartisan manner and that we listen to and collaborate with educators and scholars in teaching and learning. Unfortunately, the Governor and his administration began this week by pointing fingers and casting blame. He also made false claims that education standards in Virginia have been lowered. These comments are not only unhelpful and disingenuous, but they do not address the numerous issues that have left so many of our school districts struggling.
My colleagues and I will continue to ensure that public education is a top priority for the Commonwealth. Improving learning outcomes for all of Virginia’s students is absolutely necessary. My recent press release regarding the NAEP Scores is available here.
LGBTQ+ History Month: Elected Officials Making History
We wrap up LGBTQ+ History Month by focusing on history-making elected officials across the country. Today, we highlight just three figures at the national, state, and local levels:
Admiral Rachel Levine, MD is the Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and is the first openly transgender individual to hold an executive position that requires Senate confirmation. She currently teaches pediatrics and psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine and previously served as the Pennsylvania Physician General and the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health. ADM Levine has been an avid supporter for LGBTQ+ youth and outspoken critic of GOP policies, like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, that endanger the lives of young people seeking affirmation.
Virginia’s own Delegate Danica Roem won her election to the House of Delegates in 2017, defeating a 26-year GOP incumbent notorious for introducing discriminatory legislation and a constitutional amendment barring marriage equality in the Commonwealth. Delegate Roem is the first to be elected and serve as an openly transgender person in any US state legislature. During her time in the General Assembly, Delegate Roem has advocated for greater access to public transportation, has been an outstanding leader for funding for school meals, and has championed government transparency.
Councilman Joseph Cobb was elected to the Roanoke City Council in 2018 and served as Vice Mayor from 2018 to 2020. Councilman Cobb is also a chaplain at Hermitage Roanoke, a senior living facility. During his time on City Council, he has focused on supporting public transit, curbing gun violence, and exploring ways the city can heal from the trauma of the COVID-19 and opioid pandemics.
We are fortunate to have so many history-making individuals in Virginia and the country who have expanded representation and who continuously champion transformative efforts for all communities.
This past Thursday, the Virginia Disability Commission, on which I serve as a legislative member, held its regular meeting. Key topics under discussion were the Transit Equity and Modernization Study; the executive summary is available for review. We also heard a staff report on a request from community members to ensure that we have people-centered and appropriate language in the Virginia Code; this effort will take legislative action to replace words such as handicap and handicapped with disabled. The Disability History Museum explains how language impacts perceptions and treatment. Finally, the Commission heard the report of the Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) study on the issue of the Personal Maintenance Allowance (PMA) for Waiver Services and on the impacts PMA has on recipients’ ability to work and earn. Each of these reports provide important considerations for legislative actions for the upcoming 2023 Session.
Although Election Day is November 8, Virginians can vote now. Here are all of the voting locations across Senate District 10:
In addition to voting in-person, constituents are also able to request an absentee ballot via mail. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is today, Friday, October 28, by 5:00PM. To check voter registration status, request an absentee ballot to vote by mail, and learn more information about upcoming elections, visit Virginia Department of Elections.
On Friday, I was honored to attend a Diwali celebration hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff at the Vice President’s residence. Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a holiday that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness.
On Saturday, I attended an informational event hosted by the Indian American Muslim Council highlighting the continued tensions in India resulting from sectarian and religious extremism. The information provided a good overview of how ongoing concerns impact community members right here in the Commonwealth.
As a Richmond Chapter Board Member for the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (VCIC), I was delighted to attend the annual Humanitarian Awards Dinner this past Tuesday. This year’s honorees joined the expanding cohorts of past honorees, and each year’s honorees are remarkable and inspiring figures from throughout the greater Richmond community. The Richmond honorees are highlighted here.
Connecting With My Office
My staff continue to hold meetings with constituents via Zoom or by phone. You can sign up for a meeting with either of my staff members with our easy scheduling app: