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

  • Research Project

What We Do

It is widely accepted that changes to schooling wrought by the pandemic will have negative effects and that those effects will not impact all students and staff equally. We have partnered with VDOE to conduct vital equity-focused longitudinal analyses of the data contained in the Virginia Longitudinal Data System.

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:

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.

Project Team

Luke C Miller

Luke C. Miller

  • Research Associate Professor

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