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Posted at 1:02 PM ET, 08/ 4/2010

Virginia's education backsliding

By Peter Galuszka

It may be time for Virginia to rethink Gov. Robert F. McDonnell's policies about public education standards.

The state, which adopted its Standards of Learning competency tests 15 years ago, long before they became fashionable in other states, appears to slipping in its disciplined approach to measuring K-12 public education.

The SOLs, which measure proficiency in math and reading, earned the state only a D+ from Harvard University in May, although the Thomas B. Fordham Institute gave the state a B+. According to former Fairfax delegate Kristen Amundson, while 89 percent of fourth-graders passed the Virginia SOL reading test, a mere 38 percent were deemed "proficient," according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Some 87 percent of eighth-graders passed the SOL reading test, but only 36 percent were deemed proficient by NAEP. Roughly similar trends occurred in math for the two grades.

Scores such as these should be an alarm bell for McDonnell. Instead, the Republican, anti-government governor has pulled Virginia out of the Obama administration's Race to the Top reform program, because of a push to get states to sign on to the national Common Core education standards being spearheaded by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers.

In a pithy letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan this spring, McDonnell wrote that Race to the Top is "overly prescriptive and disregards individual state initiatives and progress."

I am the father of two college-age children, and I understand some of the problems with competency testing, especially when teachers seem overly concerned with teaching the test rather than real teaching.

But the reality is that Virginia and the rest of the United States are becoming more intertwined with the global economy. Other countries seem to take education more seriously. Their children can be very well versed in reading and mathematics, not to mention science, technology and foreign languages. If there's anyplace in the country that should share this attitude, it is Northern Virginia.

This isn't the only case where McDonnell is sacrificing true progress in Virginia for outdated and quaint notions, such as keeping local control of schools, that hark back to Mark Twain's time.

He can keep his head in the sand as long as he wants, but when he peeks up again, he may find that China, Malaysia, India, Russia and Brazil have absconded with our children's jobs.

Peter Galuszka blogs at Bacon's Rebellion. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Peter Galuszka  | August 4, 2010; 1:02 PM ET
Categories:  Fairfax County, HotTopic, Local blog network, Va. Politics, Virginia, economy, education, schools  
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If Jesus-freak McRobertson has his way, he might take Ol' Virginny education back to the 1950s, when the public schools were shut down rather than integrate under Brown v. Board of Education.

Posted by: perryneheum | August 8, 2010 6:56 AM | Report abuse

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