Terry’s Platform for Putting Virginia First: Education
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Read the PDF of Terry’s Education Policy Plan here or read the full text below.

Pre-K Through 12: Educating Virginia for Tomorrow’s Jobs

Education is the single most important thing we can do to build a strong Virginia and what our kids need to build successful lives. Whether they’re going to invent a product, start a business, or get the job of their dreams, it all starts with the basic skills and confidence that only a good education can provide, and right now we’re not doing enough.

  1. Reforming the SOL Tests
    We must have a strong system of student achievement and teacher evaluation. Unfortunately our current system isn’t working for parents, students, or teachers. The current Standards of Learning tests have created an environment with an over-emphasis on drilling students to take one-time, multiple-choice tests. There is no question that teachers must be held accountable through fair, multi-dimensional means, and that we need to ensure that students are learning what we want them to know, but we can do a better job. Improvements include:

    1. Focusing on progress through pre-testing. If a 5th grade teacher gets a child reading at a 1st grade level and, by the end of the year, has that child reading at a 4th grade level, the current system calls that teacher a failure. We must move toward progress-based data instead of simplistic grade level requirements.
    2. Permitting flexible test timing and formats. If school districts want to break up the SOL into smaller portions, administer it closer to the end of the school year, or administer the test differently for children with different learning styles, we should support that.
    3. A blue ribbon commission to study the content being tested and the format of tests. Teachers and students both report that the facts focused on in SOL tests don’t always line up with the most important concepts from each subject and that they’re often poorly presented. Tests are only as good as the questions they ask.
    4. Moving to essay or short answer-based testing where possible. Multiple-choice tests drive teachers to drill individual facts rather than broad understanding. It’s good if a child knows when we landed on the moon, but it’s much better if the child knows about the space race, NASA, and the Apollo program. Essay and short answer tests let our kids demonstrate knowledge and our teachers teach.
  2. Innovation in Education
    Quality educational systems need to think more creatively. Partnerships with businesses and community colleges, emphasis on STEM and Computer Science, and increased flexibility for our school districts will all help bring our schools into the 21st century.

    1. Robust pursuit of public/private partnership and awarding credit for certification and credentialing. When kids get certified in IT, or as mechanics, or as EMTs, we need to support and give credit for those accomplishments. Our goal should be students graduating from high school with career or college ready skills.
    2. Incentivizing creation of laboratory schools at all schools of education. Lab schools allow institutions of higher learning to partner with local schools to improve education for both sets of students.
    3. Partnering high schools with local community colleges for workforce training. Combining high school and community college career training will improve outcomes, preserve resources, and get a higher quality education for all of our students.
    4. Comprehensive digital student records. By ensuring that we have compatible systems for student data we can track progress, find problems, and discover new trends in student performance. These records will be implemented using the best privacy protection standards available.
    5. Promoting STEM and computer science education as early as possible. The jobs of the 21st century require the skills of the 21st century. We need to set up our students to succeed.
    6. Teaching our students to write. Nearly every job or pursuit of higher education will eventually require that our kids express themselves through writing.
  3. Supporting our Schools
    Over time, the Commonwealth has reduced state investment in our schools, reducing the resources of our schools and shifting the burden to local school districts.
    1. Restoring the Standards of Quality and fully funding them. In recent years, economic hardship forced our leaders in Richmond to look for budget balancing strategies that led them to undermine the standards of quality, our curriculum, and standards for school services. It’s time to restore those standards and make sure our schools have the tools they need to get the job done.
    2. Attracting and retaining the best teachers. Our teachers have seen their salaries and benefits decline significantly, in real terms, over the past several years. Paying our teachers properly is the only proven way to attract and retain the highest quality educators.
    3. Pursuing savings through efficiencies at the local and state level. The state needs to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars. Increased resources will need to be paired with improved efficiency at the local level. Where services are being paid for separately between local governments and school administrations they should be combined.
  4. Letting Teachers Teach
    Our teachers need to be relieved of the growing amount of paperwork and administrative tasks so they can focus on the job they signed up for: educating our kids.
    1. Task force to reduce administrative and non-instructional workload for teachers. By reducing the time teachers spend doing something other than teaching or preparing to teach, we increase the time they spend focused on education.
    2. Targeted and improved professional development. By supporting teacher in pursuing professional development in the areas they actually want to improve their skills we can get better educators without wasting their time and the state’s resources.
  5. Increasing support for Pre-K and early childhood education. Every young Virginian deserves access to the benefits of an early childhood education.
    1. Broaden the reach of the Preschool Initiative. Virginia should change the distribution requirements to ensure eligible preschoolers in every community can participate in Virginia’s Preschool Initiative.
    2. Improve skill levels in our early childcare workforce. We can up-skill the early care and education workforce through targeted, affordable training in partnership with Virginia’s community college system.
    3. Bring public and private resources to bear to improve early childhood education. Leverage partnerships with small business to ensure families’ access to high quality early education.

    Higher Education: A Skilled Workforce for 21st Century Jobs

    Education is the single most important thing we can do to build a strong Virginia and what our kids need to build successful lives. Whether they’re going to invent a product, start a business, or get the job of their dreams, it all starts with the basic skills and confidence that only a good education can provide, and right now we’re not doing enough.

    1. Community Colleges
      Community colleges provide tremendous resources to their local communities. But tremendous growth in student enrollments combined with decreasing state support over the past decade has stretched their ability to meet demands for classes and act as the drivers of workforce development.

      1. Giving community colleges the tools to succeed. Every dollar spent on community college workforce training creates many more in economic development. It’s time to invest where we get the greatest return.
      2. Challenge Grants. By providing some state support through challenge grants we can improve community college fundraising and bring more private dollars into our system.
      3. Increased flexibility and authority. We need to free our Community Colleges up from old-fashioned purchasing and hiring restrictions – let presidents and department heads run their schools so they can be more efficient and spend their resources on students.
      4. Increased support for workforce-development programs. Ensuring that our community colleges are providing every student with the “soft skills” – those basic job readiness skills that will allow them to transition into on the job training – necessary to succeed in their careers along with specialized training options for specific industries will ensure that our workforce can meet the needs of our industries.
      5. Increased collaboration with local high schools. We should do everything we can to get students in career training the best education and familiarize them with their community college.
      6. Provide support for “career coaches” in high schools. Giving our community colleges the opportunity to place career coaches in high schools to help guide students toward career readiness will keep our kids in the pipeline to college or a career.
    2. Four-year Schools
      We have one of the proudest traditions of higher education in the country, but they must remain affordable to parents and students. Our universities and colleges are challenged to stay current and absorb more students while their funding has been cut dramatically.

      1. Public Four Year Schools
        1. Controlling costs and fees to keep our kids out of debt. Every student in Virginia deserves the opportunity to get a quality education and start their working lives without the burden of heavy debt.
        2. Emphasize financial aid. We must ensure that, in this era of rising costs, all students have a fair shot at getting a college education.
        3. Ensuring proper representation on governing boards.  It is critically important that alumni, staff, students, and other members of college and university communities are involved in the selection of their governing boards.  The Governor should solicit and respect slates of nominees from college and university communities when filling board slots.
        4. Making employment data available. Virginia should do more to ensure that students, parents, and colleges and universities all know about and can easily access state data on what jobs are going to be available and in which fields.
        5. Focus on expansion of those schools interested in expansion. Virginia absolutely needs more space in our colleges and universities, but we should focus on those institutions with growth in enrollment as part of the plan. Every school shouldn’t have tens of thousands of students.
        6. Renewed commitment by the state to academic freedom for professors. Only by assuring our researchers that they can study free of fear that they’ll be subpoenaed or prosecuted can we attract and retain the brightest minds.
        7. Supporting returning veterans. As our veterans return home, many of them will seek education in our colleges and universities. We need to ensure that these are welcoming places for them and understand their needs and talents.
        8. Pursuing online and virtual education. We cannot afford to sacrifice quality, but where possible we must embrace online education.
        9. Modern management systems. College and universities need to adopt modern methods of management and administration to control costs and improve efficiency.
        10. Supporting our Historically Black Colleges and Universities. These institutions play a critical educational, cultural, and commercial role in our system and should continue to get our support.
        11. Increased support for research and development. In addition to creating new products and industries, supporting requests for funding from our schools’ research departments will bring revenues back to the schools and attract new faculty.
      2. Private Four Year Schools
        1. Protect the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grants. These grants help keep private schools – a critical part of Virginia’s higher education system – affordable and available for Virginia students.
        2. Increase community college articulation agreements. Our community colleges already have agreements with our public schools to permit high achieving students to transfer after two years and we should ensure that a similar option exists for private schools as well.