Virginia Education Association President Discusses Issues, Part 3
In this, the third and final part of our interview with Virginia Education Association’s President Meg Gruber, we will discuss several topics, including: the state of education in Virginia; what actions and support the VEA would like to see from the State Legislators to help both the students and the educators; and what issues will likely be discussed at the upcoming National Education Association’s Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly.
“Is there anything really good happening in the public school systems in Virginia now” I asked Gruber.
“Oh absolutely there are” said Gruber. “If you just want to look at trends across the State, we’re seeing more and more of our students graduate. We’re seeing more and more of our students once they graduate are completing and graduating from either a Community college or a four year school. But we are also seeing a number of our students who are doing more Career and Technical Ed pathways that there are more opportunities for them and they are learning what I refer to as industry certification to where they are then able to go out into the workforce with skills that are needed. So I think we’re looking at a lot of changes. (The) State Board of Ed is looking at changing the High School Graduation Requirements and potentially limiting and reducing the number of standardized tests and allowing our assessments to be more than a multiple choice-right or wrong answer. Where the students will not only work and learn the knowledge but they will learn how to work with the knowledge and learn how to communicate and show they understand the concepts behind the knowledge.”
“How can Virginia’s elected officials help?” I asked her.
“Obviously the main one is as the economy continues to recover, we need to get back to funding our public schools” replied Gruber. “Right now, even in the past General Assembly session where they put more money into K-12 then they have in a long time, we’re still not even back to the same levels of funding we had in 2009 if you adjust for inflation. Se we really need to be looking at getting those resources. We also need our legislatures to understand that they need to ensure that we’re having high quality professional teachers in the classroom. And unfortunately right now is what’s been coming out of the Virginia General Assembly is the lowering of the licensure standards for certain teachers. And it’s because there’s a shortage there. And we feel they’re being rather short sighted –‘we’ll lower the requirements so in essence we can get a warm body in’, as opposed to making sure we attract and retain high quality educators. And so they’re kind of going for the short quick fix, but in the long run they’re not addressing the problem that caused the need.”
Gruber also talked about what issues will be discussed at the upcoming NEA meeting and Representative Assembly. Obviously one of the main topics will be the implementation of the new Federal law –the “Every Student Succeeds Act” which we discussed in part 1 of this series of stories. Gruber speculated there will be discussion about how to help graduating students avoid problems with the law that could land them in jail.
“One of the things that we refer to, and it has a couple of different names, but I think the most common one used in public is the ‘school to prison pipeline’” said Gruber. “And looking at what we as educators can do to help our students learn to make better choices early on, so that their behaviors don’t escalate into the point where they become part of the juvenile justice system.”
Gruber ended with this.
“It’s going to be an extremely exciting time in the next couple of years in Virginia” said Gruber. “And I think it’s very important that members of the community and the parents become as engaged as they can as we look at making our public schools even better for all our students. We do need their input as well.”
You can learn more about education in Virginia at the VEA’s website www.veanea.org.