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McDonnell rolls out K-12 education initiatives

bob-mcdonnell-linksSurrounded by teachers, educators, legislators, students, parents and representatives from several leading education organizations, Gov. Bob McDonnell on Thursday rolled out additional initiatives of his K-12 education agenda at Goochland Middle School.

Phase 2 of his “All Students” plan includes bringing Teach for America to the Commonwealth, enhancements to school report cards to provide parents and educators with clearer measurers, reductions in red tape for local school divisions, supporting teacher innovation and staffing, and guaranteed long-term support for students to achieve key learning milestones in reading and mathematics to strengthen their education.

“Virginia is blessed with some of the best schools and educators in the nation, but we have to compete globally,” Governor McDonnell said. “We must embrace a culture of innovation and accountability by adopting proven reforms, reducing red tape for educators, supporting the highest degree of professionalism in the classroom, and giving our teachers and students the tools necessary to achieve success in our schools. School divisions must also have the flexibility to do what is in the best interest of the child because all students deserve innovation in their classrooms.”

The governor’s K-12 education reforms began in 2010 with the broad bi-partisan passage of his “Opportunity to Learn” legislative package, further enhanced in 2011 and 2012, that offers options and innovation for all Virginia schoolchildren, especially those in at-risk or underperforming school systems. The package focused on improving public charter school applications, developing criteria for virtual school programs, and establishing college partnership laboratory schools, and it included a proposal to implement a groundbreaking pilot program to provide performance pay incentives of up to $5,000 to teachers in school divisions identified as hard-to-staff. The governor also advanced legislation to establish a tax credit for companies donating to nonprofit organizations that provide scholarships to help lower income students attend nonpublic schools.

For the upcoming 2013 General Assembly session, the governor previously announced K-12 reforms that will increase teacher and instructional personnel compensation, advancing legislation and budget amendments supporting teacher professionalism and additional staffing in schools, reducing red tape and giving school divisions more flexibility to focus on student outcomes, and reforming school report cards to provide more accountability. Today’s proposals represent additional initiatives of the governor’s 2013 legislative package.

Secretary of Education Laura Fornash said, “Virginia continues to prove that a student-centered approach to education which supports teachers and provides educators and school divisions with additional tools and resources to drive success among its students. Our continued focus on innovative approaches will ensure that every student receives a world-class education regardless of their socioeconomic status or their zip code.”

In December, the governor outlined additional 2013 priorities which include enhancing teacher compensation, STEM-H incentives to attract and retain top teachers in these important subjects, passing the Educators Fairness Act, establishing the Governor’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and the Governor’s Academies for Excellent Teaching. To read more about the previously announced K-12 education agenda items, visit

Key elements of the governor’s 2013 All Students agenda include:

TEACH FOR AMERICA ACT — Governor McDonnell supports bringing Teach for America (TFA) to Virginia to support hard-to-staff schools. A significant achievement gap still exists between our students. While the task will not be easy, TFA has been successful in working with schools to close the achievement gap.

·         Teach for America recruits and trains the best and brightest recent college graduates from various disciplines to accept full-time teaching assignments in hard-to-staff schools.

·         This legislation will allow for TFA to operate in Virginia and begin placing teachers in hard-to-staff schools starting in 2013-2014 academic year.

A-F SCHOOL REPORT CARDS — Governor McDonnell proposes to simplify the current school accountability system to an easy to understand A-F grading system. This school grading system will help parents to fully understand the performance of their child’s school.

·         The A-F report cards will make school performance clear and easily communicated to the public.

·         The new A-F grading system will update the current system that is often too convoluted to understand.

·         The new report cards will recognize schools for challenging all students to reach high levels of achievement. They will also give schools a tool to encourage more parental and community involvement. When parents and community members have a clear understanding of school performance, all students benefit.

K-12 RED TAPE REDUCTION — This legislation strengthens the ability of school divisions to request waivers from the State Board of Education from certain state requirements.

·         Local school divisions may be released from Board of Education-approved regulations and standards of quality requirements.

STAFFING FLEXIBILITY FOR SCHOOL DIVISIONS — Currently, the Standards of Quality legislation prescribes the number of librarians, school counselors and school-based clerical staff required for each school. This legislation provides flexibility for school divisions to assign staff to schools with particular needs and areas of focus, rather than blanket mandates.

READING IS FUNDAMENTAL INITIATIVE — Reading proficiency by third grade is an important predictor of high school graduation and career success. Governor McDonnell’s legislation will improve reading achievement for students reading below grade level by creating additional instructional time for reading specialists to work with them. The additional time will be granted through SOL testing waivers.

·         For a school to be eligible for the waiver, it must be accredited with warning in reading or have a reading pass rate of less than 75 percent.

·         To receive a waiver, a school must have a full-time reading specialist to support teachers and students and be dedicated to instruction in the Science or History and Social Science Standards of Learning in kindergarten through third grade.

·         This is a continuation of the governor’s 2012 legislation that ended “social promotion” of third graders who did not pass the SOL reading standards.

LITERACY AND ALGEBRA READINESS INITIATIVE — Building upon Governor McDonnell’s literacy initiative, he will propose legislation to embed Algebra Readiness and the Early Intervention Reading Initiative in the Standards of Quality. Algebra is a key indicator for success in advanced STEM-H disciplines.

·         This legislation will ensure algebra intervention services to students in grades 6, 7, 8 and 9 who are at risk of failing the Algebra I end-of-course test and early intervention reading services to students in grades kindergarten through 3 who demonstrate reading deficiencies.

In addition, the governor will propose budget amendments to support this agenda which include:

FUNDING FOR READING SPECIALISTS ($1,433,116) — Provides the state share of funding to support one reading specialist per elementary school that scored below 75 percent on the third grade reading Standards of Learning (SOL) test.

KINDERGARTEN READINESS ($750,000) — Provides general fund money for the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation and adds language requiring the foundation to work with public and private partners to develop recommendations for a kindergarten readiness assessment tool and subsequent pilot project(s). The pilot assessments will be available for use, on a voluntary basis, by Smart Beginnings initiatives and local school divisions. The assessment tools will allow for a better understanding of the range of skills children have as they enter kindergarten and progress through the school year.

EFFECTIVE SCHOOL-WIDE DISCIPLINE ($618,040) — Support implementation of effective school-wide discipline system in schools by providing funding to develop and conduct statewide training for public school teachers and administrators on implementation of an effective school-wide discipline system that reduces disruptive behavior in the classroom.

ABOUT ALL STUDENTS: The All Students initiative is bringing attention to the critical role K-12 education plays in our communities and our economy. We must be willing to consider innovative strategies and structures that have been proven to address the achievement gap that continues to exist in the Commonwealth. We have a responsibility to ensure graduation rates rise and the rigor of our classroom challenges All Students. We have a responsibility to measure results and attainment by embedding innovation in our education system. We have a responsibility to ensure All Students have the opportunity to learn. For more information, visit www.ALLSTUDENTS.Virginia.Gov.

Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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