Governor Bob McDonnell today traveled to Lafayette-Winona Middle School to discuss the Opportunity Educational Institution and other significant education reforms passed during the 2013 legislative session to increase educational achievement for all children in Virginia. He also addressed the Norfolk School Board's vote of 5-2 last week to file suit against the governor's successful Opportunity Educational Institution (OEI) legislation.
The OEI, which was created through legislation passed during the 2013 General Assembly Session, will focus on turning around chronically failing, or underperforming, public schools in the Commonwealth to provide a high quality education for children attending any failing public elementary or secondary school. 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. Lafayette-Winona Middle School's accreditation was denied for the third year in a row and based on that fact it is a school that would enter into the OEI along with several other schools in the state.
Speaking about education reform and the Opportunity Educational Institution, Governor McDonnell commented, "As long as there are failing schools in Virginia, there is more work to be done to ensure that every child in the Commonwealth, regardless of their zip code or background, has access to a high-quality K-12 education as the Virginia constitution provides. Fortunately in Virginia we are blessed with world-class educational opportunities for our children. However, we continue to have some schools that are not providing our students with the opportunities they deserve and year after year continue to underperform. We cannot continue to fail the students attending these schools. The Opportunity Educational Institution will turn around these failing schools so that we are providing Virginia's students the education they deserve."
He continued, "Last week, the Norfolk School Board voted to join with the Virginia School Board Association to file suit against the formation of the Opportunity Educational Institution, arguing that it is unconstitutional. The Commonwealth's constitutional obligation is 'to ensure that an educational program of high quality is established and continually maintained for all students through the Commonwealth.' By maintaining the unacceptable status quo, and allowing failing schools to continue un-accredited, we are violating our constitutional obligation of having a high quality educational program for all our kids. The students at Lafayette-Winona Middle School, and the other schools that would be eligible for OEI, deserve better. If it takes validating the OEI in court, we look forward to ensuring every child can get the high-quality education they deserve by turning around these schools and getting them back on a track towards success. Instead of spending our time and resources fighting commonsense reform, we should be focused on ensuring a quality education for all students. Every Virginia student deserves the opportunity to attend a great school with a great teacher, regardless of background or zip code. While some may want to sue to keep the status quo, I think Virginia's schoolchildren deserve far better."
The governor concluded, "I commend Superintendent Samuel T. King for proposing innovative and creative new approaches to address improvement of student achievement. His plan for public charters run by NCPS and the Open Campus effort focused on dropouts and potential dropouts are just the type of new efforts needed to address failing schools. I also want to recognize the Mayor and Council for their critical role in educational reform and support of Superintendent King."
"I support Governor McDonnell and the Commonwealth's efforts to ensure all students have access to a quality education", Delegate Algie Howell (D-Norfolk) said. "I have been fighting for educational opportunities for the past fifty years and believe that the time has come for us to provide an option for students stuck in failing schools. One of the next great civil rights battle is in educational opportunity and today I challenge leaders across the Commonwealth to join me in this fight."
"It is so disappointing to see the School Boards Association sue to keep kids in failing schools," said Senator Ryan T. McDougle (R-Hanover). "The Opportunity Education Institution isn't just the best way to address the problem of chronically failing schools, it represents the last chance kids enrolled in these schools have at obtaining a quality education. The School Boards Association and those School Boards who join them in this suit are demonstrating one of the main reasons we have schools that are failing in the first place: those who are responsible for failing schools view them as 'turf' they need to protect instead of places where students can learn. The one group sure to lose as a result of this lawsuit are the children enrolled in chronically failing schools. They will likely have their opportunity to get a quality education delayed by a School Boards Association looking to insulate its members from accountability."
"It is extremely disappointing to see school systems waste precious resources to fight for the status quo rather than to fight for our children," remarked Delegate Gregory D. Habeeb (R-Roanoke). "As a father of 3 small kids who are all educated in our great public schools, it is morally unacceptable to me that some Virginia children won't get the opportunities my children have simply because of where they live."
Former Virginia Secretary of Education Jim Dyke remarked, "Getting the State to intervene to help improve failing schools is a battle I've been fighting since my days on the State Board of Education in the 1980s. Our focus should be on doing what's needed to better prepare students for the global economy and not on defending the status quo and failed approaches of the past. Our limited taxpayer dollars and time should be spent on educating our children and giving them an opportunity to succeed. I urge my friends at VSBA to use their resources and expertise to support needed reform in those Norfolk , Petersburg and Alexandria schools eligible for OEI. VSBA needs to be an advocate for reform , not a roadblock. "
K- 12 education reform and investment legislation signed into law by Governor McDonnell this year include:
Empower Excellent Teachers:
-HB2151 (Bell, R.P.) / SB1223 (Norment): Educator Fairness Act. Makes several fundamental changes to the processes by which teachers and certain administrators are hired, evaluated, and terminated, and streamlines the grievance process and permits a clear removal process for a teacher who has one failing evaluation. This major reform ensures that underperforming teachers are not tolerated, and that a longer probation period is put in place.
-HB2083 (Cox) / SB1185 (Vogel): Strategic Compensation Fund. Creates a fund to award competitive grants to school divisions for the design and implementation of a supplemental compensation program for teachers that provide incentives that are tailored to each participating school division's strategic goals and objectives. The grants would allow school divisions to award incentive payments to effective teachers who meet the school division's strategic compensation criteria, or to reward effective teacher leaders assuming additional responsibilities or priority assignments. For example, the grants could reward teachers who help students make significant academic progress; reward teacher leaders assuming additional responsibilities, such serving as teacher mentors; pay incentives to effective teachers with needed expertise willing to transfer to hard-to-staff or low-performing schools; or reward effective teachers who are assigned to teach critical shortage areas, such as mathematics and special education.
Innovation and Accountability:
-HB1999 (Greason) / SB1207 (Stanley): A-F School Report Cards. Creates a pathway for the DOE to report individual school performance using a grading system in addition to the standards of accreditation. Simplifies the current school accountability system to an easy to understand A-F grading system. This school grading system will help parents to fully understand the performance of their child's school. The A-F report cards will make school performance clear and easily communicated to the public. The new A-F grading system will update the current system that is often too convoluted to understand. 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.
-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.
-HB2098 (Tata) / SB1189 (Martin): Red Tape Reduction Act. This legislation strengthens the ability of school divisions to request waivers from the State Board of Education from certain state requirements. Local school divisions may be released from Board of Education-approved regulations and standards of quality requirements.
-HB2066 (Peace) / SB1172 (Blevins): Additional Staffing and SOQ Flexibility for Local School Divisions. Currently, the Standards of Quality legislation prescribes the number of librarians, school counselors and school-based clerical staff required for each school. This legislation provides flexibility for school divisions to assign staff to schools with particular needs and areas of focus, rather than blanket mandates.
-HB2144 (Landes): Reading is Fundamental Act. Reading proficiency by third grade is an important predictor of high school graduation and career success. Governor McDonnell's legislation will improve reading achievement for students reading below grade level by creating additional instructional time for reading specialists to work with them. The additional time will be granted through SOL testing waivers. Allows waivers from third grade standards of learning assessments for schools testing below 75 percent on the SOL assessment.
-HB2068 (LeMunyon) / SB1171 (Blevins): Algebra Readiness Initiative. Success in algebra is a key indicator success in STEM-H disciplines; Governor McDonnell supports legislation to embed Algebra Readiness and the Early Intervention Reading Initiative in the Standards of Quality. This bill adds kindergarten and grades one and two to the requirement that local school divisions provide early intervention services to students in grade three who demonstrate deficiencies based on their individual performance on diagnostic reading tests.
Public School Options:
-HB2076 (Stolle) / SB1131 (McWaters): Local Approval of Public Charter Schools. This legislation to eliminate the requirement that local school boards who originate a charter school application must apply for authorization from the state Board of Education. Currently, school boards who wish to start a public charter school in the Commonwealth must first submit their application to the state Board of Education. This legislation will eliminate the process of receiving state Board of Education approval in addition to the consent of the local school board. Several Virginia localities are interested in establishing public charter schools, however, the best providers in the country have policies that conflict with multiple approval requirements for expansion.
-SB1324 (McDougle): Opportunity Educational Institution (OEI). Governor McDonnell is amending SB1324 to further clarify and strengthen this groundbreaking legislation that will ensure child in every ZIP code will receive a quality education, and rescue those attending a chronically failing school.