Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dems Take Senate and SOL REform

This day is notable for me for two reasons, and I'll add another.  My eldest daughter, who has brought immeasurable joy to my life, was born on this date 38 years ago.  On this date in 1986 the door of an elevator in the General Assembly building opened, Delegate Purkey stepped on and told me the Challenger had crashed.  I knew the Christa McCauliffe, who I had gotten to know through NEA, was on board.  And today, control of the Virginia Senate changed.  All on January 28th.

VEA’s successful efforts in the elections of Senators Lynwood Lewis and Jennifer Wexton resulted in a 20-20 tie and the Senate, and the VEA recommended Lieutenant Governor Northam is the tie breaker.  The take-over was tedious and contentious, and it took hours.  However, the result is a reshuffling of all the Senate Committees.  The most important to VEA are Senate Education and Health.  Below are the new committees.  Those removed are struck through and new members are in bold:

Senate Education and Health

Senate Finance

Colgan (Chairman), Stosch (had been chair), Howell, Saslaw, Norment, Hanger, Watkins, Marsh, Lucas, Ruff, Wagner, Edwards, Puckett, Puller, Deeds, Locke, McEachin, McDougle, Vogel, Carrico, Newman

On the House side, let’s look at what happened in the House Subcommittee on Education REform (I think we should all pronounce the word as they do in the movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, with the stress on the first syllable.  Delegate Greason convened a meeting of the subcommittee for the purpose of discussing the 11 SOL REform bills before the subcommittee.  The meeting was for the purpose of discussing the topic of SOL REform, and no action was to be taken on the bills.   These bills fit into four categories:  expedited retake, data revision and release, reducing the number of tests, and substituting industry certifications for SOL tests.

In his introductory remarks, Delegate Greason indicated his three priorities:

 1.     Reduction in the number of tests from 34 to 25 or 26 to "give teachers breathing room" and to increase the time for instruction.  Greason emphasized that if we drop a science test, we will not be deemphasizing science instruction.

2.    Improve - that we should improve the quality of the tests to shift to more critical thinking, problem solving and application of knowledge.

3.    Evolve by implementing authentic assessment to replace SOL testing.   

The meeting afforded all of the stake-holder groups, including VEA President Meg Gruber, to discuss the bills.

The best tweet of the day was from Ashley Bauman:  “Well the #VASenateShowdown is still going on despite the impending doom of #Polarvortexx3. #Snowpocalypse