- Associated Press - Thursday, October 27, 2011

RICHMOND — Virginia’s school superintendents have formulated an outline for what they consider the main goals and objectives for the state’s public schools.

Representatives from the Virginia Association of School Superintendents presented their Blueprint for the Future of Public Education at Thursday’s state Board of Education meeting.

The strategic plan approved by Virginia’s 133 superintendents seeks to help students become prepared for college and other postsecondary education, and for careers.

Virginia should develop standards that all school divisions can follow, as well as an accountability system and teacher-development programs so students can “become successful learners, employees, and citizens in the 21st century,” the report said.

Also, VASS suggests that schools measure student progress and achievement throughout the year using a range of assessments, not just one standardized, multiple-choice test in the form of the current Standards of Learning exams.

“The SOLs are necessary but are no longer sufficient,” Newport News Superintendent Ashby Kilgore said in the group’s presentation to the board. “We need to begin to think about changing and broadening assessments.”

Utilizing virtual instruction, offering teacher-development programs and allowing schools the ability to extend the traditional academic year also should be considered to maximize the time available for teaching students.

Also, school divisions should improve core reading and math instruction and identify students’ weaknesses so they can be corrected sooner rather than later, according to the report.

The superintendents also said teachers need to be paid more so schools are able to recruit, develop and maintain quality teachers and staff, and that the other goals can’t be accomplished without good teachers. The group seeks to boost the pay of teachers, administrators, superintendents and staff to the top 10 percent of national salaries.

“Excellent teachers should make more money than average ones,” Gloucester County Superintendent Ben Kiser told the board.

But VASS opposes “state promotion and funding of pay for performance models that are not supported by research, are unfair and inequitable, and whose performance evaluations are based on irrelevant and invalid student growth models,” according to the group’s report.

VASS also said it will continue to press for increased state funding of K-12 education as additional revenue becomes available. The state should review and update the Standards of Quality, basic educational requirements under state law, to reflect the actual cost of providing public education, the report said. VASS also pointed out that school divisions are shouldering “a much larger portion of K-12 expenditures than intended by state policy.”

Other financial recommendations include improving the state’s funding formula in a way that reduces disparities between affluent and poorer school divisions, and shoring up the Virginia Retirement System. VASS also said that unfunded state mandates are imposing further burdens on school divisions

The blueprint is part of an ongoing conversation about improving public schools, board members noted after the presentation. But some indicated that the report failed to mention where preschool and early-childhood programs fit into the state’s education plan, and said the big question centers around where the additional education money will come from.

Rob Krupicka also said that superintendents must determine whether specific mandates don’t work or are just unfunded.

“Most of the mandates have some tieback to some expectation for helping students to succeed,” Krupicka said. “It’s not fair to blanket categorize mandates as being all evil.

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