Here’s your chance to speak up about Virginia’s education system

Photo by Kane Reinholdtsen on Unsplash

By Amie Knowles

April 9, 2024

Do you care about Virginia’s public schools? Now’s the time to talk about it.

The Virginia Department of Education recently announced a series of “accountability listening sessions” taking place throughout the commonwealth. Dates range from Apr. 2-18 and will occur in each of the state’s eight regions. Specifics on dates for your region are available here. All meetings run from 6-7:30 p.m. Online public comments are also being accepted here.

These sessions are for state education officials to hear what Virginians want when it comes to potentially revising our Standards of Accreditation. Standards of Accreditation set the foundation-level of quality and expectations for all our public schools.

Specifically, the Virginia Board of Education is focused on developing a new school performance framework.

Some of the proposed feedback categories include:

  • Academic and growth indicators
  • Chronic absenteeism
  • College, career, and civic readiness

The push comes in light of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The legislation, which President Barack Obama signed in 2015, focuses on improving the academic achievement of disadvantaged students, bringing in and keeping high quality teachers and principals, providing language instruction for students learning English, and more in every state across the country.

ESSA gave each state the ability to set general education standards in reading, math, and science. It replaced the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, which placed an emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing, and ultimately took funding away from schools that needed it the most. ESSA, by contrast, embraces student individuality and increases transparency.

When Obama signed the ESSA, he acknowledged that the goals of No Child Left Behind were worthy ones—but that they fell short.

“The goals of No Child Left Behind, the predecessor of this law, were the right ones: High standards. Accountability. Closing the achievement gap. Making sure that every child was learning, not just some,” Obama said. “But in practice, it often fell short. It didn’t always consider the specific needs of each community. It led to too much testing during classroom time. It often forced schools and school districts into cookie-cutter reforms that didn’t always produce the kinds of results that we wanted to see.”

The Virginia Board of Education—to which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin appointed eight of the nine current members—used ESSA to identify schools in need of support, after implementing more rigorous standards into the state’s public school accountability measurements—including a focus on chronic absenteeism. Between 2022 and 2023 under the revised standards, the number of schools in need of support rose from 112 to 247. Last year, the state’s accreditation system reported 208 schools in need of support.

  • Amie Knowles

    Amie is Dogwood's community editor. She has been in journalism for several years, winning multiple awards from the Virginia Press Association for news and features content. A lifelong Virginia resident, her work has appeared in the Martinsville Bulletin, Danville Register & Bee and NWNC Magazine.

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