- The Washington Times - Friday, September 26, 2008

RICHMOND | Potential changes to education regulations could give local school boards authority to approve gifted-education plans, instead of the Virginia Department of Education.

The state Board of Education also is considering proposals that would require local school divisions to submit annual gifted-education plans, instead of the current five-year plans. It also might remove a requirement that state funds that provide for gifted programs go only toward local gifted plans.

Department of Education spokesman Charles Pyle says the state is reviewing the regulations, which haven’t been modified since 1993, to ensure they comply with state law.

Teachers and other advocates of gifted students oppose several of the proposals.

They say turning over review and approval of schools’ plans to local divisions would transfer the costly process from the state and could potentially pose problems for districts that lack support for such programs.

At a public hearing Thursday, they urged the board not to approve the revisions.

“Without state oversight, gifted-education programs are at risk,” said Kris Ross-Erb, a gifted resource teacher in rural King William County. “If you leave it up to local school boards, they don’t always have experts. A state review offers consistency.”

Requiring school divisions to come up with annual plans would just mean they would be constantly mired in paperwork revising their goals, rather than being allowed to work toward long-range goals.

Judy Williams, educational specialist for Henrico County’s gifted-education program, said the changes would negatively affect services.

Mr. Pyle said Virginia law doesn’t require the Department of Education to approve local plans and that perhaps “school boards are in a better position to pass judgment on gifted-education plans than the state.”

He also said state law only requires broad measures including student-teacher ratios and professional development, and state appropriations mainly support that broad goal - they don’t fund local education initiatives. Funding is driven by appropriations, not state regulations, he said.

The regulations also provide criteria for identifying and screening gifted students, curriculum and instruction guidelines and requirements for professional development of teachers.

The hearing Thursday was the last of four public comment sessions.

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