Capping off a 29-year career in the Virginia Department of Education, Pat Wright served for six years as Virginia’s superintendent of public instruction under Governors Tim Kaine and Bob McDonnell.
She worked closely with the Virginia Board of Education and sitting governors to create a college- and career-readiness research agenda that recalibrated the Standards of Learning program designed to more effectively prepare students for transition to postsecondary training and work.
“Many states that adopted common standards during this period are now holding Virginia up as a model for successfully implementing their own college- and career-readiness standards and assessments,” Wright says.
A number of the policies and initiatives developed under Wright’s influence over the course of her career focused on raising mathematics achievement and continue to be supported by the General Assembly—including the Standards of Learning, Algebra Readiness Initiative, Elementary Mathematics Specialist position, Middle School Mathematics Teacher Corps, and e-learning using handheld technologies.
“Student achievement of Virginia students on national mathematics assessments continues to increase and outpace most states,” she says, a trend that gives her great personal satisfaction.
“Virginia students outperform almost all of their peers on national reading, mathematics and science tests and on the SAT and ACT college-admissions assessments,” a VDOE press release upon her retirement noted. “The commonwealth now ranks third in the nation in the percentage of public high school graduates who qualify for college credit on Advanced Placement examinations. Student achievement on all of these national measures improved during Wright’s six years as superintendent of public instruction.”
Student achievement of Virginia students on national mathematics assessments continues to increase and outpace most states.
The Curry School’s Role
“My Curry School graduate experiences in mathematics education and research and evaluation provided the research basis for much of the work I championed as state mathematics specialist,” Wright says.
Her doctoral dissertation examined the relationship between specific algebra and arithmetic topics and was conducted during a time Virginia was implementing an “algebra for all” movement. She says that the results of her study supported this goal and later were used to support significant changes to the state mathematics standards and graduation requirements.
“The thought process I developed through the study of mathematics was very useful in analyzing data and information needed to make decisions,” she adds. “The undergraduate and graduate degrees I hold in mathematics and mathematics education add meaning to the phrase ‘once a mathematician, always a mathematician!’”
Wright spends most of her time since retirement enjoying her lake property and water toys on Lake Gaston, golfing, and doing yard work.
“When I am not boating or golfing, I serve as a state advisor on governmental relations for MetaMetrics, Inc.—a research and development company that created the Lexile reading and Quantile mathematics measures,” she says. “Periodically, I am called upon to advise states on content and policies related to standards and to give talks on educational topics of interest.”
“Pat Wright has been an exceptional public servant,” said former Board of Education President David M. Foster of Arlington County upon her retirement. “Her work over the course of nearly 30 years with the state education department left a mark on literally millions of Virginia students whom she challenged to reach higher and strive for excellence.”