Robert Hurt: Today’s students are tomorrow’s innovators

robert hurtThis past week, we had the opportunity to visit a number of schools across the Fifth District and learn about the curricula our students have been studying.  We visited schools in Rocky Mount, Gretna, Chatham, Altavista, Brookneal, Cumberland, Palmyra, Farmville, Stanardsville, and Charlottesville discussing topics ranging from computer science to political science.

During our time at Franklin County High School, Fluvanna County High School, and Albemarle High School, we visited with the winners and honorable mention recipients of this year’s Fifth District Congressional App Challenge.  The Congressional App Challenge is an annual competition designed to engage student creativity and encourage their participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education fields and the entries we had this year were exceedingly impressive.

At Altavista High School, we visited their new TEALS (Technology, Education, and Literacy in Schools) Program.  The TEALS class in Altavista started in 2015, and it is one of the first rural schools to have on site instruction through this exciting program.  Training our students in programs like this is vital to ensuring they are prepared for their future.

We also visited a team of seventh graders at Charlottesville’s Burley Middle School entered in this year’s SchoolsNEXT contest who showed us their presentation.  SchoolsNEXT is a global competition that involves designing what a school would look like in 2050.  Their project involved both a computer generated model and a physical model of what they envisioned for their school of the future, and we were again thoroughly impressed.

We stopped by William Monroe Middle School’s National History Day, in which the contestants presented their trifolds of a specific event in our history.  The history of Virginia’s Fifth District is rich, and it was exciting to see these young people demonstrate thorough understanding of our past.

Each of the students we had the opportunity to visit reinforced the unique importance of one bill in particular that recently passed in the House of Representatives and was signed into law.  The No Child Left Behind Act, originally enacted in 2002, had good intentions and sought to improve student achievement.  It was unfortunately also rooted in the idea that Washington knows what is best for our students.  The law invited excessive federal intrusion into K-12 classrooms and prioritized test-taking over quality learning environments where local schools and parents worked together to foster children’s development.  But recently, we passed the Every Student Succeeds Act to significantly reduce the federal government’s role in the classroom and eliminate a number of ineffective programs.  This measure restores state and local government’s control of their education systems and empowers parents, teachers, and school administrators to design the curricula that will be most effective in their communities – not federal bureaucrats.

Programs involving STEM education, such as TEALS and the SchoolsNEXT competition, are extraordinarily important to allow our students to innovate and evolve in ways that would not be possible within a rigid curriculum handed down by the federal government. The more control we allow our students and parents to have over their own learning, the more innovation we will see.  The students we visited with this week all desired to work beyond the core curriculum and pursue opportunities that would further enhance their education.  Through the Every Student Succeeds Act, we reformed No Child Left Behind to empower our local schools and encourage the innovation and ingenuity our Fifth District schools are promoting.  In the House, we understand that a well-educated, well-trained workforce is essential to maintaining a competitive economy, and we remain committed to keeping the federal government out of our local schools.

If you need any additional information or if we may be of assistance to you, please visit my website at or call my Washington office: (202) 225-4711, Charlottesville office: (434) 973-9631, Danville office: (434) 791-2596, or Farmville office: (434) 395-0120.

Robert Hurt represents the Fifth District of Virginia in Congress.

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