This week I am presenting two bills that I believe will make a significant difference in ensuring that the education our kids get is high quality, while providing teachers with better tools to track student growth.
The first bill looks specifically at individualized growth measurement for children in our K-12 schools. Everyone is frustrated with SOL testing, and I think we are all frustrated for two reasons. One reason is that SOL tests, and the anticipation of those tests, cause a lot of stress for our kids. The second reason is that SOLs do not measure how our kids are doing in school. SOLs were established to measure school progress; however, it does not effectively accomplish the goal of tracking student progress in schools.
SB367 creates a statewide growth measurement system that tracks individual student progress in school. We need to make sure that students are growing during the course of the school year. We should know whether our students are able to keep up with and master the learning material, so that we can ensure they are prepared to progress to the next level. This tool does not require students to take any new or standardized tests. The system uses the tests that teachers already give to their classes.
Educational data tells us that the outcome of a single test, like the SOL, is more reflective of what kind of day a child is having and not what they actually know. Instead, the measurement tool I’ve proposed looks at a three year cumulative assessment of each child in comparison to their peers and makes sure that they are mastering the material each academic year. Tracking this data will give us a chance to intervene if they are not on track. This is how we help each kid succeed.
The second piece of legislation that I am introducing this week implements a statewide learning management system. What this means is that every school district in Virginia will have access to a single computer platform. Currently, our teachers have to navigate several different IT platforms - for syllabi, grades, and communication with parents, which is inconvenient and time consuming. Our teachers also have no place to share lesson plans. For some teachers, their only option is to share ideas about creative ways to interact in their classroom or lesson plans via websites like Pinterest or purchase them from other websites. SB366 introduces one learning management system to streamline all of these platforms.
When we talk about the teacher shortage, I always equate it to staffing challenges we have at the hospital. In our attempts over the years at the hospital to make sure we have nurses that are well prepared, we analyzed why nurses were leaving the field. We have learned that nurses are less concerned with how much they are being paid and more concerned with all of the inconveniences of their job. This is the same for teachers. Dealing with multiple platforms is one of those unnecessary stressors.
The proposed learning management platform allows our teachers to centralize all of these functions. With this system, teachers will be able to share information, lean on each other, and ideally make the time they spend preparing for lessons at home a little bit easier. This platform will also allow the Virginia Department of Education to develop a robust set of lesson plans that can be shared universally, along with the individual ones teachers create. Additionally, this platform creates lesson plans for virtual education that can be interactive. This will ensure that our kids have different ways they can learn both online and in the classroom.
These are legislative ideas that do not fit into a small soundbite, but they are really important. I’m proud to advocate for better education for our kids and better work conditions for our teachers so that we can best educate our children to succeed and stay in Virginia.