Superintendents present 'Blueprint' for education reform

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By Tom Wilmoth

    School superintendents from around the Commonwealth have come together to present a blueprint for reforming education in Virginia.

    And Bedford County Schools Superintendent Dr. Douglas Schuch is encouraged Gov. Bob McDonnell has several of those reforms on his list as well. He added that the plan also covers many of the issues included in the BCPS strategic plan.
    Dr. Schuch joined superintendents from Region VI last week at a press conference to speak about those reform proposals.  Virginia's 132 superintendents all approved the  “Superintendents'   Blueprint   for   Virginia Education Reform” this past year which addresses such issues as curriculum/readiness, assessment, instructional delivery, human capital and the state's role in funding public education.
    Dr. Schuch said this week he agrees with the governor on the need to eliminate Virginia's “King's Dominion” rule which says school systems—unless they obtain a waiver—must open after Labor Day. He also is encouraged that the governor supports reforms to help school systems deal with  issues of improving teacher, administrator and classified staff performance.
    Dr. Schuch said the “Blueprint for Reform” articulates what supervisors feel needs to be done to improve education.
    In the area of assessing students, the plan calls for more than just “multiple-choice testing” to help make sure they are ready for college and careers, he said. The goal is a change in curriculum that would give students career development experiences and to assess student readiness in ways other than just the typical testing used today.
    “The benefits of established standards and criterion-referenced assessments, such as SOLs, have been significant, but are no longer sufficient,” he said. “In order to change our curriculum and instruction, we must change, or at least broaden, our assessments.
    “We want assessment tools that show growth, not just results,” he said.
    The rules around teacher contracts are also addressed. The Blueprint supports increased salaries and benefits for teachers and staff, but also calls for the ability of the school systems to “hold all educators accountable for student achievement.” That could include using performance indicators in teacher evaluations and supporting locally-developed differentiated pay. That could also mean extending the probationary period for teachers.
    Dr. Schuch said it is important for the state to fund its portion of education. He also said flexibility is needed at the local level..