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The SOLs appear poised for a revamp next year no matter who wins the governorship.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
RICHMOND — Reforming the Standards of Learning tests, offering more online courses and providing a career growth path for teachers who want to stay in the classroom were parts of a K-12 education platform discussed Monday by Republicans in the House of Delegates.
The policy proposals came about two months ahead of the next General Assembly session — and nearly two weeks before Election Day, when all 100 House seats are on the ballot.
The SOLs appear poised for a revamp next year no matter who wins the governorship. Both major party nominees for governor, Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe, have talked about reforming the SOLs to focus less on memorization.
Del. Thomas “Tag” Greason, R-Loudoun County, said GOP leadership in the House wants to consider reducing the number of tests given over the course of a student’s career — now 34 — and refocus the test to emphasize critical thinking and problem solving over rote memorization.
“Right now, the tests are very, very rote memorization driven,” he said. “While we evaluate the number, we want to evaluate what we’re testing and how we’re testing the content.”
There are federally approved tests to substitute for the SOL that they are reviewing, he said. That list includes, for example, Advanced Placement and SAT tests.
House members are looking for an “SOL 2.0” rather than the Common Core State Standards, uniform standards that 45 states and Washington have adopted for K-12.
“We are not considering that right now and we believe that the way we’ve started to talk about assessment reform will again leapfrog Common Core into a leadership position for Virginia amongst our peers,” he said.
The caucus is also looking at more online courses and computer adaptive testing, which is supposed to better measure each student’s individual progress.
House Majority Leader Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, said the caucus rolled out the broad policy areas, which they have been working on since summer, to have time to get input from state education groups.
The rollout also comes as House races are coming to a head. Asked about the timing, Cox said people want to hear about issues.
“So I think it’s exactly what the public’s looking for,” he said. “They’re looking for folks in government to give them solid proposals on issues they care about. There’s nothing they care about more than K-12.”
Greason first outlined the proposals in a speech before the Virginia Association of School Superintendents annual legislative conference.
Steve Staples, executive director of VASS, said he thinks the message was well received.
“I think in general, superintendents welcomed the idea of taking a hard look at the current accountability model and changes that would make it perhaps a more accurate and reasonable model,” he said, adding that they would wait to see what the next steps look like.
Meg Gruber, president of the Virginia Education Association, said they would like an invitation to talk about the proposals as well. She said many of the ideas are things the association has been advocating.
“The assessment reform is critical,” she said, adding that too much time is spent on having students memorize facts rather than analyzing information.
“We’re definitely shortchanging them in critical thinking skills,” she said.
She said the career ladders idea has been raised before, but she also wants to see attention paid to elevating all teachers to “where their pay and benefits should be in 2013.”
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