Educators: School philosophy changing
Posted: October 6, 2012
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — Public school systems are dealing with increased accountability, less federal funding and a changing philosophy on education.
That was the message that the three area school superintendents heard Friday during a “State of the Schools” panel discussion at the Hampton Inn on Berryville Avenue.
The event was sponsored by the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber.
According to Rick Leonard, city schools superintendent, learning is no longer voluntary, but compulsory, and divisions must do their best to not let any student fall through the cracks of the education system — or risk being penalized.
“We’re not going to accept a zero,” he said. “We’re not going to accept no work. We’re not going to let you sleep in class. We’re going to wake you up.”
“Schools must not reform, they must transform,” he added. “This is not the school you went to. It’s different.”
Leonard was joined by Schools Superintendents David Sovine (Frederick County) and Mike Murphy (Clarke County).
One of the issues officials focused on was the continuing implementation of more challenging standards and assessments that often define success as good results on standardized tests.
For example, as Standards of Learning tests increase in rigor, a school’s success is based on its students’ passing rate. Sometimes only a few students can cause a school to go from “successful” to “unsuccessful,” which could cause the school to face academic intervention.
“Federal funding continues to go down, and accountability continues to go up,” Murphy said. “We have a test and measurement culture.”
Officials say other measures of success are important, such as an increase in students taking Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment classes; more industry certifications being obtained; high graduation rates; and increased performance in the fine arts.
“We welcome accountability, but also believe it’s important to have multiple measures, not just one snapshot in time,” Sovine said, encouraging those in attendance not to base their idea of success on “one-shot” tests.
Sovine also stressed the importance of education in the community.
Citing a Virginia Beach economic impact study, he said that for every dollar invested in the school operating budget, $1.53 is invested back into the community.
“It’s quite a return,” he said.
Over the years, schools have also taken a larger role in raising the student: from focusing on reading, writing and arithmetic in the early years to including such programs as finance learning, obesity monitoring and bully prevention.
The future holds even more daunting challenges as schools learn how to best use virtual learning and electronic devices in the classroom, work on establishing more business partnerships in the community and further discussing the benefits of an extended school year and merit-based pay for teachers.
— Contact Rebecca Layne at email@example.com