New Standards of Quality for public schools

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RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- There are now new Standards of Quality for public schools across Virginia.

The Virginia Board of Education says these standards describe the foundational instructional programs and support services all schools must provide and drive about 85 percent of state funding for local school divisions.

According to a release, the proposed standards align with the board's goals of promoting education equity, supporting educator recruitment and retention, and helping students and schools reach graduation and accreditation requirements.

“Rather than recommending amendments to the current standards, the Board of Education is again carrying out its constitutional responsibility to determine and prescribe Standards of Quality for the Commonwealth's public schools,” said Board of Education President Daniel Gecker. “These new standards are the product of a two-year review of the needs of our public schools and the evidence-based best practices necessary to ensure equitable opportunities and outcomes for all of our students and supports for our teachers, principals and other educators.”

The standards are subject to revision by the General Assembly and consolidate several existing state programs that work to support struggling schools and students.

Instead, there will be a single, expanded funding stream, which will be known informally as the equity fund, within the Standards of Quality.

Distribution of funds from this system will be based on the percentage of students who are eligible for free meal and it will provide an additional $131.9 million in state funding for schools that serve significant numbers of children who live in poverty.

That money would support school divisions in their work to recruit and retain experienced and effective teachers and other staff in high-poverty schools and provide additional intervention and remediation services to help students.

The release says these new standards will include support for services such as moving the K-3 class size reduction program from the annual Appropriation Act to the SOQ.

It will also increase state funding for reading specialists and move support for such specialists from the annual Appropriation Act to the SOQ.

Additionally, it will establish a new teacher leader program and expand Virginia's existing teacher mentor program to give additional compensation and time within the instruction day for teachers who have been designated as leaders and mentors.

It will also amen staffing requirements for English learner teachers to base distribution of them on the language proficiency of students within a school division.

There will be specific staffing ratios in the standards for school nurses, social workers and school psychologists.

The SOQ will provide state funding for state-level and regional work-based learning coordinators to build partnerships between school divisions and local businesses.

The new fund will also create a statewide principal mentorship program to strengthen school leadership and support the retention of teachers and student achievement.

Finally, it will provide state support for a full-time school counselor for every 250 students, require a full-time principal in every elementary school, and require a full-time assistant principal for every 400 students.

Gecker says these new standards “recognize the importance of putting the right teachers in the right classrooms in every school in the Commonwealth while providing support for new teachers and opportunities for experienced teachers to advance professionally while remaining in the classroom.”

The release says the Board of Education is also recommending the General Assembly get rid of the cap on state funding for support positions that was put in place in the Appropriation Act of 2009 during the last economic recession.

That cap limits state funding for support position to one such position for every 4.27 instructional position.

These new standards and the legislation needed to enact them will be presented to Governor Ralph Northam and the 2020 General Assembly, as well as the budget estimates required to support the requirements and the staffing ratios.

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