Equity in Virginia’s Public Education System: A Longitudinal Examination Spanning the COVID-19 Shutdown

Project Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the most dramatic disruption to PK-12 school systems we have seen in our collective lifetimes. In March 2020, Virginia suddenly closed all of its public schools to in-person learning for the 2019-20 school year. With guidance from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), divisions spent the summer crafting instructional and health plans that detailed how and when they would reopen for in-person learning and preparing students and staff for remote learning in the meantime. It is widely accepted that these changes to schooling wrought by the pandemic will have negative effects and that those effects will not impact all students and staff equally. The pandemic is expected to widen educational opportunity and outcome gaps. 

VDOE, like educational agencies around the country and world, is extremely concerned with how best to support its school divisions, administrators, teachers, students, and parents during this unprecedented time. Additionally, VDOE has a particular commitment to promoting equitable access to instructional opportunities embodied in its Virginia is for All Learners initiative launched in 2018. This is evident in VDOE’s “Recover, Redesign, and Restart 2020” plan that establishes “Centering Equity” as a key priority for the return to school. It is essential, therefore, that the Department track progress toward its equity goals over time.

We have partnered with VDOE to conduct vital equity-focused longitudinal analyses of the data contained in the Virginia Longitudinal Data System. This project has the following goals:

  1. Short-term Patterns: We will identify the short-term patterns (through school year 2020-21) in both student and teacher outcomes, including the extent to which these patterns had implications for equity of access to instructional opportunities and educational outcomes.
  2. Division Responses: We will describe the variation in division responses to the shutdown in the spring and summer of 2020 as well as their reopening plans for fall 2020 and any modifications to these plans that unfold over time.
  3. Medium-term Patterns: We will describe the medium-term patterns in student and teacher outcomes (through school year 2022-23) for their equity implications and the effects of various features of the response and reopening plans on equity in student and teacher outcomes.
    Our analyses aligned to these goals will provide VDOE with a solid foundation on which to extend this equity inquiry into longer-term outcomes as these students advance through the PK-12 system and into college and careers. The project’s fourth goal will support these long-term analyses:
  4. Instructional Linkages Feasibility Study: We will conduct a feasibility study on the extent to which the current VLDS data identify instructional linkages between students and teachers.

This research project is a partnership with the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). It is supported by a research grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (R305S210009). The project begins in June 2021 and is scheduled to be completed in May 2024.


Principal Investigator

Luke C. Miller



Project Team

  • Luke C. Miller, Ph.D., Principal Investigator at UVA, has the overall responsibility for the data analyses and the dissemination of findings. He will co-lead analyses of short-term patterns in student outcomes, medium-term patterns in teacher outcomes, and the instructional linkages feasibility study.
  • Michael F. Bolling, Principal Investigator at VDOE, is the Assistant Superintendent for Learning and Innovation. He has the oversight responsibility for project overall and will ensure that the research generates actionable findings to inform agency decision making on equity and the COVID-19 response. He will co-lead the analyses of short-term and medium-term patterns in student outcomes.
  • Beth Schueler, Ed.D., co-Principal Investigator at UVA, will assist Miller in overseeing and managing the data analysis and dissemination activities. She will co-lead the analyses of division response plans and the medium-term patterns in student outcomes.
  • Dave Myers, Ph.D., co-Principal Investigator at VDOE, is the Assistant Superintendent for Data, Research, and Technology and will assist Bolling in ensuring that the research remains aligned with VDOE’s priorities and interests. He will co-lead the analyses of short-term patterns in teacher outcomes and the instructional feasibility study.
  • Veronica Katz, Ph.D., co-Investigator at UVA, will co-lead the analyses of short-term and medium-term pattern in teacher outcomes.
  • Jennifer Piver-Renna, Ph.D., co-Investigator at VDOE, is the Director for the Office of Research and will co-lead the analyses of division response plans and medium-term patterns in teacher outcomes.

Expert Advisors

  • Holly Coy, Assistant Superintendent for Policy, Equity, and Communications, VDOE
  • Samantha Hollins, Ph.D., Assistant Superintendent for Special Education and Student Services, VDOE
  • Shelley Loving-Ryder, Assistant Superintendent for Student Assessment, Accountability, and ESEA Programs, VDOE
  • Tod Massa, Director of Policy Analytics, State Council of Higher Education of Virginia (SCHEV)
  • Patty Pitts, Assistant Superintendent for Teacher Education and Licensure, VDOE
  • Leah Walker, Director of the Office of Equity and Community Engagement, VDOE