- The Washington Times - Friday, April 26, 2002

RICHMOND Seven years after the birth of the state's Standards of Learning, some teachers continue to resist implementing the rigorous academic requirements, education officials said yesterday.

Virginia's Department of Education provided technical assistance in the 2001-02 academic year to 97 schools that failed for a second consecutive year to meet state standards for student achievement in at least one content area, according to a report presented to the State Board of Education.

While most of those schools are making progress, a few are being held back by teachers who either don't want to teach the standards or still don't know how, said Cheri Magill, the department's director of accreditation.

"Some have insisted on teaching their first year 25 or 30 years in a row," Miss Magill told the board.

Board President Mark C. Christie estimated that a third of the schools "accredited with warning" for a second consecutive year have teachers who have worked the standards into their lesson plans but have not taught them in the classroom.

"This is really at a point where we can't have some paper drill," Mr. Christie said. "Children are not learning to read. We can't wait and hope that 10 years from now they'll get their act together."

The state sends teams of educators to failing schools to determine what they are doing wrong and show them how to improve. The intensity of the "academic review" increases with each repeat visit.

"We've got to do something pretty drastic on the level three academic reviews," said Jo Lynne DeMary, state superintendent of public instruction. "Children don't have time for us to be piddling around on this."

Each academic review concludes with a briefing for the school principal and the district superintendent. The board voted to also include school board members in those briefings to make sure they know what needs to be done.

Pressure on the schools to improve will increase as the state consolidates the Standards of Learning with the testing and accountability requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The board completed its first review of its application to participate in the program yesterday. The federal legislation will require new tests in math and English for grades four, six and seven to complement existing tests in grades three, five and eight. The new tests are to be added in the 2005-06 school year.

Instead of submitting separate applications for a dozen federally funded programs, the state will be able to submit one application and will have more flexibility to shift federal funds between programs.

Approval of the state's application will mean about $60 million to $65 million in additional federal funds next year, said Dan Timberlake, the state department's assistant superintendent for finance.

Ms. DeMary said the Standards of Learning have given Virginia a leg up in complying with the federal legislation. Other states have had to scramble to meet a May 28 deadline for drafting a plan.

Virginia's board will take a final vote on its application May 23 .

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