Friday, February 10, 2012

Hey Virginia Teachers-- Great Job!

Growth Model evaluations, loss of continuing contracts, budgetary woes getting you down?  Never fear teachers of Virginia, the Teaching Underground is ready to give you a pat on the back.  You’re doing great!  Keep up the good work and don’t let the political rhetoric and imposter reform movement ruin your day.  Here’s a short list of Virginia's achievements in the past year.

Reported by CNBC, Virginia ranks as America’s number one state for businessAmong the reasons for this ranking:

This year, Virginia powers back to the top spot with the best overall score in the history of our study — 1,660 out of 2,500 points. Texas slips back to number two with a respectable 1,578 points.  In Education, Virginia jumps seven points to rank sixth, reflecting an effort begun in 2009 to reduce class sizes.

First of all, it’s nice to see that someone realizes that class size matters, but it’s also nice to see an acknowledgement that in Virginia, education isn’t to blame for our shortcomings.  What is you ask?

Not all is rosy in Virginia. The state fell eight spots to number 26 in Quality of Life, which, among other things, measures healthcare. The number of uninsured residents in Virginia has risen steadily in recent years.

What else are we getting right in our Virginia schools? 

Oh, yes, Education Week rated Virginia schools fourth overall in the nation this year.  Across five categories, Virginia scored an overall grade of 82.6 compared to the national average of 76.5.  Guess what categories reflect the most room for growth.

One of our three lowest scores came in Spending- 71.1 percent.  Accountability was 93.3.  The argument used to be that we expected money without accountability.  I guess one out of two isn’t bad.  Speaking of one out of two, our lowest score was a 50 percent in college readiness, but…

… according to College Board’s “Connection” web newsletter: “In an encouraging national trend, all but four states showed that an increasing number of public school graduates participated in the AP Program. Maryland again led the nation with the highest percentage of its graduates (27.9 percent) participating in AP and scoring a 3 or higher on an AP Exam. Following Maryland in the top 10 were New York (26.5 percent), Virginia (25.6 percent)…

So Virginia ranks third in the College Board’s ranking of the percentage of graduates scoring a three or higher on AP exams, positioning themselves to earn college credit in high school.

We hear a lot of talk nationally about the importance of STEM, so Virginia schools' performance in the area of Science education is important.  According to the Science and Engineering Readiness index-- developed by Susan Wite from the Statistical Research Center at the American Institute of Physics and physicist Paul Cottle of Florida State University-- Virginia ranks 6th with a score of 3.73, above average.

The SERI score is a scale of 1 to 5 reflecting how well states perform and allow opportunities for success in physics and math education and teacher qualifications.

According to The Fordham Institute report, The State of State Science Standards 2012, Virginia is one of only five states scoring a grade of A- or better.

Virginia didn’t do well on one ranking system.  The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—which heavily influences the legislative agenda in Virginia— ranks Virginia schools 26th, by using the sole measurement of NAEP test results for low income fourth and eight graders.  Worse, they give Virginia a grade of C- because of Education Policy in the areas of Standards, Charter Schools, Home School regulations, Private School Choice Programs, Teacher Quality and Policies, and Virtual Schooling.  This report is supposed to provide a road map for legislators to follow to bring about educational excellence in their state.

Based on Governor McDonnell’s education proposals for 2012 it would appear that Virginia is following that road map.  So instead of recognizing the quality of public education in Virginia by congratulating teachers, principals, and superintendents on a job well done, we get empty words of gratitude and a policy plan that reflects the empty assumption that Virginia schools are failing.

It may not be worth much, but to the public educators of Virginia, The Teaching Underground says, "Keep up the good work.  You've achieved much and we're sure you know that as educators we always seek improvement.  Be proud of your efforts, continue to appreciate your students, their families, and communities, and despite policy-makers and pundits who seem bent on proving differently-- Know that your hard work, expertise, and experience makes a positive difference to the Commonwealth."

Stop reading.  That's it, really.  I know that statements like that  always have a "but" following that essentially negates every positive comment.  Not here.  Good job.  Knuckle Bump. That's the end of the story.

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