Eight school superintendents from Roanoke and surrounding areas have unveiled a blueprint for the future of public education in Virginia. All are members of VASS, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, which has distributed the plan to the State Board of Education, the Virginia Education Association, and Governor McDonnell.
The blueprint contains five goals which the superintendents say should be worked on together and could be reached within about eight years. They are:
1. All Virginia students will graduate college and career ready.
2. School divisions will use multiple and balanced assessments to measure student growth and achievement.
3. Virginia’s students will benefit from instructional delivery models supported by evidence-based research that are flexible enough to accommodate diverse learners and broad enough to maximize students’ learning styles.
4. Develop Virginia’s human capital for the provision of high-quality 21st century public education.
5. Increase funding for public education to ensure that the state meets its responsibility to provide public education as a core function of state government and to promote economic development in Virginia.
The superintendents said they want to do more for students than just teach for a test, but give them real life problems to develop skills from a business perspective, taught with contemporary tools.
The blueprint outlines more quality in assessing student progress-not more tests. Superintendent Doug Schuch of Bedford County says that means using assessment measures other than the old multiple choice tests.
VASS wants Virginia to be in the top 10% of the U. S. in terms of education, and in order to do that, Botetourt County School Superintendent Tony Brads says the Commonwealth needs to develop and retain effectively and technically proficient teachers and staff. Brads explained that the blueprint calls for support for local pay scales for teachers and staff and that the probation period for teachers be extended to five years.
Roanoke Superintendent Rita Bishop said, “The demands on these students are really beyond imagination. And as we look further down to Kindergarten and first grade and below, frankly the pressure that these students will find exerted on themselves will be really overwhelming. We have needs; and science technology, engineering and mathematics, commonly referred to as STEP, are just amazing things. And these students have to have the skills necessary for employment, and frankly, for the continued success of this country.”
She lamented about being “prisoners of time”. “We have to be able to be very flexible.” Bishop mentioned the countless hours she spent with lawmakers in Richmond trying to get her school division permission to begin the school year before Labor Day. “Now, frankly, if we’re going to deliver models that are research-based and wonderful to students, we have to have time flexibility.”
“We have instructional delivery systems today that are so much more sophisticated than we’ve ever known and that’s because of very sound educational research. Most of us have many staff members who know exactly how to do it and exactly what to do. The barriers that have to be removed are so that they can do it.”