Ken Cuccinelli’s K-12 Education Plan
Putting Our Kids First
To view a PDF version of this plan, please click here.
Ken Cuccinelli believes all of Virginia’s children—regardless of the color of their skin, where they live or how much money their parents make—deserve an opportunity to receive a world-class education and that no child should be forced to remain in a failing or unsafe school.
For a long time, Virginia has had one of the best education systems in America. That’s a credit to our hard-working and talented teachers, innovative school systems, committed parents and motivated students. But Virginia’s leaders can’t afford to rest on these laurels.
Despite Virginia’s success on the whole, not every Virginia student has the opportunity to experience a quality education. There are many communities in Virginia where students are struggling to keep up with their peers around the state. Within our education system there is an undeniable and significant disparity based on race and wealth. That disparity must be addressed now.
Currently, for instance, 45 percent of African American and Hispanic fourth graders fall into “below basic” category for reading proficiency. For white fourth graders it’s 19 percent. Similarly, the dropout rate for white students in Virginia is 4.4 percent, compared to 9.3 percent for African Americans and 13.6 percent for Hispanic students.
The disparity exists geographically as well. In Petersburg, 30 percent of students fail the reading test of Virginia’s Standards of Learning (SOL) tests. That’s double the state average. Similarly, just 59 percent of Petersburg students graduate from high school on time, compared to 82 percent for the rest of state. In Norfolk, the dropout rate is almost twice as high as the state average. To address these disparities, Ken Cuccinelli’s education plan will take a comprehensive approach to reform.
In order to secure Virginia’s long-term economic future, the attorney general will implement an education plan that will ensure more Virginia students have the opportunity to attend a four-year college, attain advanced degrees in science, math and engineering and make immediate contributions to our economy upon entering the workforce.
His K-12 education plan is based on four core principles:
In order to ensure all of our students have the best possible education, we must empower parents with the option to determine the best academic setting for their child’s education.
We need to always remember that teachers are the backbone of our education system. Study after study proves there is no more important variable in terms of determining a student’s long-term success and financial security than teachers.
All children, regardless of who they are or where they live, deserve the opportunity to attend a quality school and learn from motivated teachers.
If we care about our students’ progress, we must implement real and verifiable measures that allow our education system to replicate success and remedy failure.
1. Establish the APPLES (Academics, Parents, Principals, Leaders, Educators And Students) Commission Under The Virginia Board Of Education To Review And Revise The Standards Of Learning And Report To The General Assembly By November 1, 2014.
This commission will be composed of parents, teachers, business leaders, university leaders, state legislators, and community stakeholders who will review, under the Virginia Board of Education, the current SOL system and find ways to strengthen the K-12 curriculum and testing procedures to ensure that graduates of Virginia public schools are prepared when they enter the workforce or go on to college and that schools are held accountable for this standard.
a. Focus SOLs on competency and cognitive based education—based on student knowledge and problem solving ability—rather than rote memorization and time spent in the classroom.
b. Either develop adaptive computer tests or build a large bank of test questions to increase flexibility in the testing calendar as well as the capacity of administering tests.
c. Eliminate the need for students to wait for a long period of time to re-test.
d. Engage parents with a clear reporting system on each child’s performance, expectations, and interim progress beyond the current report card system.
e. Enhance transparency at the school level with a matrix of the percentage of children who pass/fail or are retained in elementary schools, as well as achievement in math and reading levels.
2. Broaden Kindergarten-12th Grade Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (K-12 STEM) Curriculum
This curriculum provides studies in math, science, technology and engineering. Students learn analytical skills for research, scientific skills to tackle complex scientific problems with fact based solutions and technical skills to repair machines, debug operating systems and stay current with software and equipment changes in technology;
a. Raise the profile and importance of Career and Technical Education (CTE) with all students and parents as a mainstream educational pursuit leading to work and college.
b. Double the attainment of Occupational Credentials and/or Licensure in the K-12 system by 2020.
c. Increase the attainment of CTE sequences (e.g., Robotics 1, 2 and 3) of study leading to advanced technology occupations, industry-recognized credentials or STEM degree pathways by 25 percent over the next four years.
d. Expand the use of modeling and simulation, virtual reality (e.g., Lincoln Virtual Reality Welders) and proxy technologies (e.g., desktop 3D printers) in K-12 to introduce modern industry concepts and technology at low costs with no physical risks.
e. Expand Workplace Readiness Skills (WRS) assessments beyond CTE programs into the standard diploma and curriculum for all students.
f. Double the number of female students completing K-12 STEM-H programs by 2020 and initiate a public-private partnership with existing programs that will brand and market inspirational messaging and resources to empower young women and parents to pursue these career and degree pathways.
3. Teacher Training
a. Create a K-12 engineering endorsement for Virginia high school teacher licensure.
b. Review and reform teaching requirements and establish paths to teacher licensure external to education institutions.
c. Establish a similar A-F accountability system for colleges offering education programs to train teachers.
4. Expand Digital Learning
a. Create a statewide system that provides funding and administration for virtual schools.
b. Create and expand Virtual Classrooms. Share successful teachers online. Allow and reward excellent teachers with a specialty (e.g. language or calculus) to teach a class online for students in other school districts that have an unmet demand for specific classes. This will allow our best teachers to earn more money while extending their specialty and providing an advanced learning opportunity around the Commonwealth.
c. For non-public virtual schools, assure accountability by providing final funding only upon successful student completion of the courses.
d. Provide legislation that will eliminate barriers to successful implementation of a virtual school curriculum such as seat-time, pupil-teacher ratios and high school course hour requirements. In other words, students will pass the course based upon mastery of the subject material, not time in the classroom. This allows flexibility for students with a variety of learning needs on both ends of the academic spectrum.
5. Preparation For Global Economy
If Virginia is to remain competitive in a global marketplace, we must graduate students who are multilingual. Each child should demonstrate a proficiency at the middle school and high school in the second language of their choice.
6. Provide Local Jurisdictions With Block Grants With The Standards Of Quality Absent The Mandates To Enable Local School Boards To Have Flexibility To Fund Staffing For Classroom Needs
7. Reward School Improvement
a. Identify funds that can be repurposed to reward schools that:
1. Improve a letter grade
2. Maintain an “A” grade and have steady student improvement
b. Expand options to give schools the flexibility to act like genuine charter schools, meaning flexibility in implementation of curriculum in return for clearly defined accountability goals.
8. Provide Opportunity Scholarships For Targeted Preschool Education
Virginia currently funds the Virginia Preschool Initiative, which is targeted to low-income children through matching funds with localities. However, many localities do not match funds due to lack of money or lack of facilities. Many families have difficulty participating in this program due to accessibility issues or preference for a faith based program. Significantly, preschool scholarships
are not subject to Blaine Amendment restrictions, thus, tax credits should be offered for low- income families to defray the cost for attendance to parent-selected preschools (based on safety and health regulations).
9. Enact Parent Empowerment And Choice Act Legislation For Parents In Failing Schools
This legislation provides a bottom-up solution instead of a top-down fix to authorize a majority of parents of students attending a public elementary or secondary school that has been determined by the Virginia Board of Education to be a failing school to petition to have one of four reform options:
- Closure: Allow students to attend better performing public schools.
- Restart: Convert to a charter school.
- Reform: Replace leadership at the school and provide flexibility for reforms or change.
- School Choice: provide opportunity scholarships to allow parents to enroll students in the public schools of their choice, or tax credits to enroll in the private schools of their choice.
10. Improve And Expand The Virginia Educational Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credits
a. Establish a separate tax credit program and/or scholarship fund specifically for students in failing schools.
11. Provide More Transparency In The Performance Management Of The Public School System At The Community Level
a. Provide a clear reporting system of child performance, expectations and progress on a frequent basis to parents.
b. Develop a school matrix of pass/fail/repeat for math and reading levels for each school that is available to the public.
12. Constitutional Amendments
Virginia has provisions in its constitution that explicitly bar government aid to “sectarian” schools or institutions, including the so-called Blaine Amendment. The Blaine Amendment was passed as a result of anti-Catholic bigotry in American politics in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, which made clear that the federal Constitution permits aid through school choice programs, Virginia’s Blaine Amendment restricts the ability to enact broad-based school choice programs. A state constitutional amendment is needed that is narrowly drafted to allow for school choice programs that do not restrict parents’ choices about what is best for each of their children.
Additionally, while Virginia technically allows charter schools, any charter school has to be approved by the local school district within the boundaries it would be operating. This creates a conflict of interest as school districts do not want competition. It’s like Pepsi having to get permission from the Board of Directors of Coca-Cola to sell a new product. Virginia has one of the most detrimental charter school laws in the country.
In 2013, SJ 302, was introduced by Senator Mark Obenshain, proposing a constitutional amendment to grant the state Board of Education authority to establish charter schools within the school divisions of the Commonwealth. The resolution failed in the Senate, 20-19-1 (required 21 affirmative votes for passage). Mr. Cuccinelli’s administration would support such an effort to provide parents with the greatest array of options to allow for their children’s success.