ANGIE M. AUSTIN
Special to The SWT
RICHMOND - State lawmakers received resolutions recently passed by 28 school divisions to update the present Virginia public education accountability system. The school boards assert that the current system is outdated and doesn’t address the existing need for students and teachers now and in the future.
Alan Seibert, superintendent of Salem City Schools and president of the Virginia Association of Superintendents (VASS) states, “Parents, educators, business leaders and legislators in both parties recognize that it’s time to change the status quo of using 20th Century assessments when we are fully focused on ensuring that students acquire 21st Century skills.”
Resolutions addressed the over-testing of students in elementary through high school grades and to reduce the 34 Standards of Learning (SOL) tests given, instead, providing assessments to better determine growth in student development.
“The state’s current system of testing every student 34 times between grades 3-11 is as onerous as it surely is expensive and efforts to use this one type of test for two purposes by means of a statistical approximation of student progress is seriously flawed,” states Seibert, “Students and parents in Virginia deserve authentic measures of individual student growth and teachers deserve access to new tools that will demonstrate the progress that their students are making.”
Along with Seibert, the current Executive Director of VASS and former superintendent of York County Schools, Steve Staples, said, “We want accountability, but the current system has served its purpose and it is not currently meeting the 21st Century needs of the students,” Staples continued, “We are already seeing similar rejections of the over-use of testing in other states across the country – states like Texas and Connecticut.”
Other resolutions passed include using more reliable and valid measures of student attainment of knowledge and their application for analytical and problem-solving skills, measures that will prepare students for college and careers, allow failing students to retest when they are ready and including a number of important factors when evaluating teachers and schools instead of solely relying on SOL scores.
Progress is already being made as other school districts are considering adopting new resolutions in regards to student testing and Staples explains further, “Major education organizations are organizing to promote these changes together, local chambers of commerce are considering their own resolutions, and members of the General Assembly are beginning to listen.”
For an example of the resolutions being passed by the boards of education, visit the VASS website at www.vassonline.org.