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McDonnell announces education agenda

Joined on Monday by Virginia public school students, teachers, superintendents and parents, Gov. Bob McDonnell unveiled his 2012 legislative and budget actions that support his administration’s ongoing “Opportunity to Learn” K-12 education agenda.

The actions, to be introduced in the 2012 General Assembly session, focus on raising standards for schools and teachers, reducing mandates on local school divisions, expanding educational options for Virginia students, enhancing teacher quality, and funding for critical education and training programs.

The governor’s proposed budget also includes $438 million in new, additional K-12 funding over the next biennium.

“In February 2010, I was joined by Republican and Democratic legislators to initiate our ‘Opportunity to Learn’ agenda which included legislation that allowed for the establishment of virtual school programs, college partnership lab schools and further strengthened Virginia’s public charter school law,” said McDonnell. “Today, we are gathered again to announce our 2012 initiatives that will further reinforce this commitment to improving K-12 education, adding rigor to school curricula, strengthening our teacher workforce and repealing the calendar requirement to give localities the ability to choose when to start school.

“The future of our great Commonwealth is the students who will one day become our leaders in business, industry, medicine, technology and education. It is incumbent upon us to reward and recognize our great teachers and not tolerate failure of any kind in our public schools. Every student deserves the opportunity to attend a great school. We must raise standards for students and teachers, and ensure our young people get the world-class education they need in every school, in every region of Virginia.”

“By streamlining bureaucracy and enhancing the skills for our teachers, Virginia can continue to build upon our long history of a world-class education system and ensure that our students are well-trained for the skills and information they need to be successful in the workforce,” said Secretary of Education Laura Fornash.

Speaking about the teacher accountability and contract requirement changes, Brenda Alspaugh, who retired from Chesterfield County schools after a 33-year teaching career said, “This proposed reform provides a model that holds teachers, principals and superintendents continually accountable. It helps to ensure that schools are staffed with competent professionals that continue to meet the diverse needs of all students.”

Discussing the repeal of the law requiring schools to schedule their first day of school after Labor Day, Dr. Pam Moran, Superintendent of Albemarle Co. Schools and President of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, said, “VASS is pleased to see certain areas of governor McDonnell’s legislative package align with the Superintendents’ Blueprint for the Future of Public Education in Virginia. Superintendents support flexible instructional time. The governor’s proposal for pre-Labor Day school start times is a great first step.”

Joan Wodiska, President of the Virginia School Boards Association said, “Virginia students no longer compete against students from Maryland or North Carolina, our students, our workers, our businesses, compete in a global economy.   In this high stakes game, we cannot afford to lose.  Every student, regardless of race, gender, language, income, disability or zip code needs and deserves a world-class public education. For many, many, many years, the Virginia School Boards Association’s top legislative priority has been to abolish the Labor Day Law.  Virginia School Board members strongly and loudly support your request for a full repeal.  Much has changed in the nearly three decades since the passage of the Labor Day Law.  This relic of the old economy is the definition of a burdensome, costly, outdated, and unnecessary state mandate. In fact, today, the state Labor Day law directly conflicts with Virgina’s economic and educational goals. It must be repealed.”

Delegate Kirk Cox added, “Last year, we made significant reforms to and investments in our colleges and universities to increase access to higher education at an affordable cost to Virginia families. This year, Governor McDonnell has proposed bold ideas that will focus on raising standards and reducing mandates on localities so they have the ability to improve educational opportunities for our children.”

“Virginia has an education system that we can all be proud of and this legislative agenda demonstrated the governor’s commitment in making Virginia’s already outstanding system even better,” said Senator Steve Martin.

The 2012 ‘Opportunity to Learn’ agenda includes proposals in several areas.

Raise Standards – College and Workforce Readiness

Streamlining Diploma Requirements

·         Consolidating the high school diplomas available around the Commonwealth from seven to three more rigorous and meaningful requirements, and raising the rigor of a Standard Diploma to require career and technical education credential or passing a state licensure examination, national occupational competency assessment or the Virginia workplace readiness skills assessment. It also includes folding the Modified Standard Diploma into the Standard Diploma and making accommodations for special education students. This legislation also folds the General Achievement Diploma into the General Achievement Adult High School Diploma, and requires industry certification or work skills assessments. A Special Diploma will be available for students with disabilities who complete the requirement of their IEP and who do not meet the requirements for other diplomas. $308,655 is included in budget for assessments in the Standard Diploma

Positive Youth Development

·         Establish positive youth development academy pilot program for rising 9th and 10th graders in selected regions of the Commonwealth to focus on life skills such as civics, financial literacy, community service, preventive health, character education and leadership skills. The legislation also allows character education programs to be implemented during the regular school year or during the summer via a Youth Development Academy.

Dual Enrollment

·         Establish written agreements with a Virginia Community College specifying the pathway for students to complete an associate’s degree or a one-year Uniform Certificate of General Studies from a Virginia Community College concurrent with a high school diploma.

Advancing Literacy

·         Revise the Standards of Quality to ensure local school divisions use funds appropriated for prevention, intervention, and remediation to create reading intervention services to students in grades 3 and 4 who demonstrate deficiencies based on the SOL reading test or any reading diagnostic test that meets criteria established by the Department of Education. Intervention services must be provided prior to promoting a student from grade 3 to 4 or grade 4 to 5.

Reducing Mandates on Local School Divisions

Calendar Flexibility

·         Repeal the requirement that school divisions must begin their school term after Labor Day unless they have a waiver from the Board of Education to increase amount of instructional time students receive in a given year

Expanding Educational Options for Virginia Students

Provide Structured Support for Innovative Learning

·         Establish an Innovative Options Technical Advisory Committee with national experts to provide guidance to potential applicants during the planning process for charter schools, college partnership laboratory schools and virtual school programs. $201,624 is included over the biennium to support the work of this committee.

Virtual Schools Legislation

·         Establish new regulations for accrediting virtual schools that enroll students full-time.

Alternative Licensure Virtual Teachers Legislation

·         Establish alternative licensure for virtual school teachers.

College Partnership Laboratory School Enhancements

·         Allow for a partnership with local school boards and institutions of higher education in which both have shared accountability and funding for students. Both public and private institutions of higher education would be allowed to establish a college partnership laboratory school in partnership with one or more local school boards.

Educational Improvement Scholarship

·         Provide tax credits to companies that contribute to the educational improvement scholarship fund for low-income students.

Enhancing Teacher Quality

Strengthening Teacher and Administrator Contracts, Evaluation Policies and Streamline Grievance Process

·         Establish an annual contract and evaluation process versus the current continuing contract practice for teachers and principals. It will allow for a new evaluation system to work by attracting and retaining the top-tier educators in our K-12 public schools. Seventeen other states have already made changes to their contract and tenure laws. $415,500 is included in the budget over the biennium for principal and teacher training.

·         Establish a three-step grievance process to include the employee, the principal, the superintendent, and the school board, and set aggressive timelines for the process that would significantly reduce the time required for a grievance to be concluded.

The 2012 “Opportunity to Learn” agenda also includes funding initiatives in the governor’s 2012-2014 biennial budget that will:

·         Provide additional funding to support the Early Intervention and Reading Initiative

·         Require local school divisions to include in their existing reports to the Department of Education how their financial resources are being allocated

·         Provide $2 million in additional funding in FY 13 and FY14 for the Communities in Schools program to expand to Hampton Roads, Petersburg, southwest Virginia, northern Virginia, and Danville. Expansion would also include adding regional field support personnel, on-going state-wide training and technical assistance, and annual total quality system standards reviews.

·         Provide $1.8 million in funding in FY 13 and FY14 for 10th graders to take the PSAT and partner with College Board to conduct statewide workshops on using the results to increase AP participation and SAT scores.

·         Provide $770, 276 for the expansion of the PluggedInVA model to all 8 superintendents’ regions in the state. PluggedInVA involves enrolling adults both in local GED programs in divisions and also in industry certification programs at the community colleges.

·         Provide $80,000 in FY13 to provide planning and first year start-up funding in FY13 for Health Sciences academies.

·         Provide $135,794 for the Positive Youth Development Academy pilot program for rising 9th and 10th graders in selected regions of the Commonwealth

·         Fund a request for proposals to develop an elementary education preK-6 approved program with a major in mathematics, sciences, or integrated sciences and mathematics and middle/secondary approved programs focusing on the preparation of mathematics and science teachers. The programs must be led by public or private colleges or universities, including collaboration of local school divisions, with preference to a consortia model. Programs will provide support to prospective teachers in completing a program within a four-year baccalaureate degree, offer tuition incentives, and promote distribution of high quality teachers across the Commonwealth.

·         Provide $600,000 in funding for incentive awards for teachers in STEM areas. A new teacher with an endorsement in mathematics, physics, or technology education assigned to a teaching position in a corresponding STEM subject area is eligible to receive a $5,000 initial incentive award after the completion of the first year of teaching with a satisfactory performance evaluation and a signed contract for the following school year.  An additional $1,000 incentive award may be granted for each year the eligible teacher receives a satisfactory evaluation and teaches a STEM subject for up to three years (maximum incentive award is $8,000). Funding will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis with preference to teachers assigned to teach in hard-to-staff schools or schools in improvement.

McDonnell also committed more than $300 million to support the state’s commitment to teacher retirement.

augusta free press
augusta free press