BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) — The leader of Bristol, Virginia’s school system believes a recent report about public education in Virginia does not give a fair depiction of what is going on in Southwest Virginia.

The report by Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration claims Virginia’s students are falling behind the rest of the country and that decisions made at the state level “created confusion in Virginia education and downplayed troubling trends.”

“The data is overwhelmingly clear,” Youngkin said. “We are not educating Virginia’s kids to the standards and expectations that we want. And we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.”

The report describes the current state of public education in the state as having lowered expectations, wide gaps between state and national proficiency standards, and lower achievement.

Bristol, Virginia Public Schools Superintendent Keith Perrigan said the report doesn’t show the good things happening in schools across Southwest Virginia.

“There was a lot of data in there that I think will be beneficial and will help Virginia move forward and get better, but I don’t [think] the data that was released today really tells the whole story of what was going on across Virginia, but especially in Southwest Virginia,” Perrigan said.

According to the report, Standards of Learning (SOL) reading scores declined statewide in grades 3–8 from 2017 to 2019. However, Perrigan said his district actually saw growth in 3–8 reading during that time and pointed out that one elementary school was recognized as a Title I school of distinction.

Perrigan also addressed the decline in SOL scores mentioned in the report. He said SOL standards are changed every four years or so, which causes scores to decline temporarily. However, teachers and students make adjustments and scores bounce back. He cited previous sharp decline when changes were made in 2007 and 2013.

“And that’s exactly what’ll happen this time,” Perrigan said. “Now that we’re coming out of the pandemic, we’ll start to take a really hard look at that data, and we really already have, and we’ll work to start improving those scores. So this is not an anomaly, it’s not the first time that it’s happened in Virginia or other states, and rather than causing alarm, I think maybe it should open our eyes and to dig deeper into the data.”

The report also claims that “Virginia parents are taking their kids out of public schools” and placing them in private schools or homeschooling them.

Perrigan said that has not been in the case in Bristol, Virginia.

“As a matter of fact, since the pandemic, we have actually had a lot of our homeschool students come back to us. Our enrollment, because of the economy in Southwest Virginia, has been gradually declining over the last 20 years. Actually, during the pandemic, we saw our enrollment stabilize,” Perrigan said. “Many of our students have come back to us from homeschooling because we now offer a regional virtual academy that all the Region 7 schools in this part of the state have come together to offer.”

Perrigan said the school system will have a better idea of how his district compares to the rest of the state in the coming weeks once school officials review the data further. Although he expressed concerns about the report, he said there are some things worth looking forward to.

“We’re excited about having higher expectations, we have high expectations of our students, and of our staff, and of ourselves, so we’re looking forward to the challenges that are put forth as part of this report,” Perrigan said. “But, we’re also concerned that there really wasn’t a lot of positive that came out of that report and we know, especially here in Southwest Virginia, that there are a ton of positive things going on in public schools.”