Charter Pulse

Selected readings on US charter schools

VIRGINIA: Ensuring educational opportunity for all students

Letter to the Editor:

school-choiceMost students in Virginia have the opportunity to attend quality public schools. These students graduate ready to go to college or begin a career. National rankings confirm that Virginia’s public schools are among the best in the country.

Unfortunately, these rankings overlook the fact that there are still too many students who are trapped in failing schools. We have celebrated our high rankings, but too many students continue to fall behind. Our state still has schools that have been denied accreditation for more than five years- an entire generation of students left behind and forgotten.

During his 2013 State of the Commonwealth Address, Gov. Bob McDonnell called for action saying, “We must have a zero tolerance policy for failing schools, because they jeopardize our children’s future. No more excuses. Virginia is blessed with some of the best schools in the nation. If one school is failing; if one child is not provided access to a good education; we have simply not done our job.”

Gov. McDonnell has proposed a wide-ranging legislative K-12 reform agenda to improve educational opportunities for all students.

Our current system of fixing failing schools does not work because it lacks accountability. If a locality has a failing school, that local school board must submit a proposed corrective action plan to the State Board of Education. The Board of Education considers the proposal and develops a memorandum of understanding with the local school board. The State Board has no recourse should the memorandum of understanding fail to turn the school around.

That is why Gov. McDonnell is proposing the creation of an Opportunity Educational Institution. The legislation creates a statewide school division that will function as a turnaround or rehabilitation school division. This model is based on similar statewide school divisions in Tennessee and Louisiana. Both states have had tremendous success using a statewide school division to turn around failing schools.

The Opportunity Educational Institution (OEI) would serve as Virginia’s commitment to quality education for every student, regardless of where they live. If a school is consistently failing, the Opportunity Educational Institution will step in to manage it. Under the current plan, a failing school would be defined as a school that has not achieved accreditation. Currently, four schools would qualify to be transferred to the statewide school division.

The institution will be able to provide experienced leadership and a toolbox of innovative solutions to help improve student performance. For example, the Institution would be able to propose the establishment of a charter school or a laboratory school. Experts with proven experience in turning around failing schools will lead the Institution. These experts will be able to offer unique insights and a customized solution to improve a failing school.

A local school division would be eligible for transfer back to the local school board after five years or upon achieving full accreditation.

Picture this: a Virginia school that has fallen below state accreditation for four plus years with dismal graduation rates leaves students stuck in a system that, without question, will not prepare them for success as adults. Legislators in Louisiana and Tennessee were faced with this problem and took action to help fix these schools. Over the past three years, schools under Louisiana’s Recovery School District (RSD) saw student academic performance grow by double digits. The test scores in the RSD improved in every grade and in every subject for three consecutive years.

This is not about taking over a failing school; however, it is about intervening where too many students have been denied an opportunity to receive a quality education.

It is incumbent upon the General Assembly to provide leadership and ensure equal access to an excellent education. Students who are trapped in failing schools deserve more than a memorandum of understanding that has no real consequences or outcomes.

Our current system tolerates failure. The Opportunity Educational Institution will bring accountability into our system and provide innovative solutions to help failing schools. Every child in the Commonwealth deserves a quality education, and the Opportunity Educational Institution offers a lifeline for students in chronically failing schools.

Source: – by Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), Jim Dyke (Former Secretary of Education, Richmond)

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This entry was posted on February 5, 2013 by in Charter Schools, School choice, Virginia and tagged .


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