Surrounded by legislators and education policy leaders, Governor Bob McDonnell ceremonially signed today landmark K-12 education reform legislation. Governor McDonnell signed HB2084/SB1175: The Teach for America Act (Cox/Ruff), SB1324: Opportunity Educational Institution (McDougle) and HB1999/SB1207: A-F School Grading (Greason/Stanley).
Speaking today about the bill signings, Governor McDonnell remarked, "The legislation signed into law today establishes Virginia's position as a national leader in innovative education reform. HB2084 and SB1175 will allow divisions in northern, southwest and central Virginia the opportunity to partner with Teach for America as an additional source for high-quality and diverse educators trained and supported to teach in our schools with the greatest needs. Since 1990, corps members have impacted the lives of more than 3 million children in low-income communities across the country. Teach For America has trained more teachers for low-income communities than any other organization or institution in the nation. Today, we are honored to welcome Teach For America to the Commonwealth.
"Because we believe that all children deserve access to an excellent education the Opportunity Educational Institution (OEI) will also become law today. In the year ahead the OEI will begin to develop relationships with school and community leaders in anticipation of eligible schools transferring to the institution in the fall of 2014. Today, I am pleased to announce that we will begin recruiting for the institution's executive director. The OEI will transform our approach to failing schools.
"A-F school grading will allow parents to clearly understand how their local school is actually performing. A-F school grading will be a catalyst for parents and community leaders to get more involved in the success of their schools. I applaud the leadership of Delegate Greason, Senator Stanley and the General Assembly in making A-F school grading available to all parents and community members."
Delegate Kirk Cox, former public school teacher and ALL STUDENTS co-chair, commented, "The ALL STUDENTS agenda passed with broad bi-partisan support during the 2013 General Assembly session. The Teach for America Act, Opportunity Educational Institution and A-F School Grading will ensure that regardless of ZIP code, Virginia's children are provided an excellent education. I applaud Governor McDonnell and my colleagues in the General Assembly for their leadership."
Former Virginia Secretary of Education Jim Dyke said, "It is time for Virginia's business, education and community leaders to drive the reform effort and enhance the global competitiveness of our future workforce. It is simply not enough for Virginia to be ranked 4th in a nation that is at the bottom of international rankings. As Will Rogers said, being on the right track is not enough. If you're not moving forward aggressively you'll still get run over. I applaud Governor McDonnell and the bipartisan cooperation in the General Assembly for taking action. If we build on and continue these reforms I am confident Virginia can lead the world in the quality and skills of our workforce."
Eva Colen, Teach for America's Virginia Community Engagement Director, adds that "As a native Virginian having led recruitment efforts for Teach For America in the Commonwealth for the last three years, I'm thrilled and honored to begin conversations with community leaders, school divisions, and philanthropists across the state to explore the possibility of joining ongoing efforts to help ensure that all students in our state have access to an excellent education.
A description of the legislation ceremonially signed into law today is included below:
- HB2084 (K. Cox) / SB1175 (Ruff): Teach for America Act. 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 across the country 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 the 2013-2014 academic year.
- SB1324 (McDougle): Opportunity Educational Institution (OEI). The OEI will focus on turning around chronically failing public schools in the Commonwealth. Consistent with the Constitution of Virginia, "it is desirable for the intellectual, cultural, and occupational development of the people of the Commonwealth . . . . to ensure that an educational program of high quality is established and continually maintained for all students throughout the Commonwealth," This law establishes a statewide Opportunity Educational Institution to provide a high quality education for children attending any failing public elementary or secondary school. The Opportunity Educational Institution will be uniquely positioned to turnaround failing schools and provide all students the opportunity they deserve. While this model is new to Virginia, it is proven nationally. States like Louisiana and Tennessee have created Recovery and Achievement districts and the results are positive.
- HB1999 (Greason) / SB1207 (Stanley): A-F School Report Cards. Creates a pathway for the DOE to report individual school performance using an A-F grading system in addition to the standards of accreditation. The A-F report cards will make school performance clear and easily communicated to parents and the public. 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.
Governor McDonnell is hosting a K-12 Education Reform Summit on August 5th in Chantilly, Virginia. Registration is available, here: http://govk12summit.eventbrite.com/