Virginia Education Association President Discusses School Issues, Part 1
In light of the upcoming National Education Association (NEA) Annual Meeting scheduled for June 27th through July 7th in Washington D.C., Allegheny Mountain Radio talked with Meg Gruber, the President of the Virginia Education Association (VEA), the local affiliate of the NEA. In this first story, we will discuss the new Federal law which will be replacing the old No Child Left Behind Act. That new law, known as the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) will become effective as of the 2017-2018 school year. Gruber explains how ESSA differs and improves upon the old law.
“I think the biggest difference that we are going to see is the Federal Government has loosened their restrictions on what the State and our local school divisions can do to educate our students” said Gruber. “So a lot of the punitive measures of you must hit a certain goal on this multiple choice test and if enough students don’t, you’re labeled ‘failing’. That’s primarily going to be gone. There will still be accountability and the Federal Government is still requiring certain multiple choice tests, but in a lot of the other subject areas, other than English and Math, there will be much more flexibilities for the state, and therefore our school divisions to get away from the standardized testing and get into where students are not only learning what they need to know factually, but they are also being able to show by projects and in papers that they really understand the material and the concepts behind it and they are able to present those concepts coherently. So we’ll be able to get our students much better prepared for life after high school because I don’t know of anybody in any profession or any job that skill of taking a multiple choice test is what they need to be a successful adult.”
Gruber went on to emphasize that under the old law, unrealistic goals were mandated, but the ESSA improves on that.
“The biggest impediment and unintended consequences was the fact that under the former law that by 2014, or 2 years ago, 100% of all students had to be on grade level in Reading and Math” Gruber said. “Which is certainly a laudable goal, but it is certainly nothing that could ever be attained. Just without even thinking of all of the English language learners we have coming into our country, it’s looking at our Special Needs population. Many of those children will never be on the grade level that’s appropriate for their chronological age. That’s why they’re special Needs students.”
I asked Gruber about how the Common Core Curriculum fits into all of this.
“Virginia is not a Common core State” said Gruber. “Common Core is a set of standards that was developed originally by the Governors Association –all the states governors- to come up with a basic set of standards that every child in the country regardless of any state that you go to should have this basic level of knowledge. And Virginia chose not to go that way. The Virginia Board of Education looked at Common Core and thought that our standards of learning that we already had in place are just as good if not better. So part of the problems we are hearing today with Common Core in other states isn’t necessarily about the standards, it was about the rush to implement the testing part of it. That you were putting the multiple choice standardized tests in place before anybody really had a chance to learn and teach and develop the curriculum for the standards. And that has been one of the biggest problems in other states with the Common core.”
Stay tuned to Allegheny Mountain Radio for the next part of this story, where we learn where learn about the VEA’s and NEA’s involvement with the upcoming elections with other issues affecting education in Virginia.