Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Testing & School Grading in Virginia: The Time to Act is Now

There are some major happenings at the state level with public education in Virginia and if you're a supporter of public education in Virginia, there's a few things you can do about them right now.

1. What's happening: Almost every Virginia parent and every Virginia educator I talk to is concerned about the amount of SOL testing, what its results are used for, and how it negatively impacts curriculum and instruction. Communities across the Commonwealth are starting to come together to publicly question and discuss the role of high-stakes testing. They are in the Virginia legislature, they are in Roanokethey are in Chesterfield County, and they are in Richmond

What you can do: Please urge your County Council of PTAs, your school board members, your state and local elected officials, and your school district administration to facilitate public conversations about testing. 

2. What's happening: Apparently, some school boards in Virginia are listening to those citizens concerned about testing. "Resolution Concerning High Stakes, Standardized Testing of Virginia Public School Students" is making its way through the Virginia School Boards Association. So far, thirty school boards from all over the state have signed it. I have urged my school board to sign it (as of yet, they have not but I am told they will discuss it). 

What you can do: Contact your school board and either thank them for signing it if they have already done so or urge them to if they haven't done so yet.

3. What's happening: The Virginia Board of Education is going to do a final review on Thursday, October 24th of the criteria for grading schools. I've already explained that grading schools in this way is an awful idea and will likely end up rewarding affluent schools and punishing low-income schools. Since I wrote my school grading post, Oklahoma's school grading system has been put under the microscope and has been found to be majorly flawed. The Virginia Board of Ed should not do any final review now. First of all, they don't have to. Second of all, in light of flaws and misuse in other states, this process, this concept needs to be examined more thoroughly. This is not in best interest of Virginia--as I noted above, thirty school boards (and more will sign in the near future) have already passed a resolution in opposition to the state testing program upon which the school grades will be based. 

What you can do: Contact the Virginia Board of Education (e-mail: BOE@doe.virginia.gov) and ask them to postpone making any final decisions about the school grading criteria until the legitimacy of school grading schemes have been established and until after changes are made to our state testing program. Do this ASAP as the final review of A-F criteria is set for Thursday, October 24th. Then contact your state delegate and senator and let them know you'd like the school grading bill to be taken off the books.

If we want our public democratic institutions to work for us, we must engage as members of the public in the democratic process.