State superintendents propose education reform plan

Published 12:33 am Saturday, October 29, 2011

Superintendents from across Virginia came together this week to propose a reform plan for public education in the state.

The Virginia Association of School Superintendents went before the state Board of Education Thursday to present its “Blueprint for the Future of Public Education.”

All of Virginia’s 133 superintendents favor the plan, according to the organization, and many of them attended the board’s meeting to show their support.

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The plan includes five key focus areas — curriculum and readiness, assessment, instructional delivery, staffing and the state’s role in funding public education.

Al Butler, executive director of VASS, said the organization worked to address the main needs of Virginia’s students.

“We put together things we feel would improve education for students in commonwealth,” he said.

In the plan, the organization recommends using more than standardized, multiple-choice tests to measure student success.

“The benefits of established standards and criterion-references assessments (Standards of Learning tests) as a means to raise student achievement in Virginia have been significant but are no longer sufficient,” the report reads.

VASS suggested identifying alternative assessments that include case analyses, problem-based projects, group work and community review of work.

The proposal sets a goal to prepare all students to be college- and career-ready when they graduate from high school.

To do that, the plan sets key ways to meet the standard, including ensuring all students encounter grade-appropriate career development experiences.

The other main goals of the reform include using evidence-based teaching and learning models to meet the needs of each student, hiring and developing effective staff members, and ensuring the commonwealth provides proper funding for public education.

“Localities already shoulder a much larger portion of K through 12 expenditures than intended by state policy,” the plan reads.

Butler said he thinks the plan was well-received by the Board of Education. However, some of the members were concerned the proposal doesn’t address pre-kindergarten.

He added the group is looking forward to working with the state on meeting the goals of the plan.

“We want to work closely with the state Board of Education to address some of these strategies as well as with the governor and the General Assembly,” Butler said.

Suffolk Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney did not respond to requests for comment on the plan.