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Education board president backs McDonnell's position on national standards

Rosalind Helderman

The president of Virginia's Board of Education said Wednesday that she opposes replacing Virginia's Standards of Learning curriculum with a new national curriculum guide--providing key support to Gov. Bob McDonnell's position on the issue.

At McDonnell's (R) direction, Virginia dropped out of the Race to the Top competition, a federal program that let states compete for massive federal education grants. He said the potential federal money was not worth ditching the state's 15-year-old SOLs. The competition encourages states to adopt common national standards.

And now Virginia Board of Education President Eleanor Saslaw has released a statement indicating that she agrees. Saslaw, who was first appointed to the board by former Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner, wrote that she will ask the Board of Education to endorse her position at a meeting next week.

The statement is particularly critical because the board had previously endorsed the development of the national standards, creating a possible perception that it was more supportive of the new curriculum than McDonnell. And some educators had criticized McDonnell, suggesting he was putting too much faith in the state's own standards.

But in her statement, Saslaw wrote that she opposes making federal grants contingent on the "word-for-word" adoption of the new standards and continues to support the state's own curriculum standards instead.

She noted the state's entire system of testing and accountability is based on its SOL program and the the state has a process that would allow some elements of the new Common Core to be incorporated into the SOL program if needed. Plus, since 1995, Virginia has spent more than $250 million on its SOL program. That's the amount it could win in the Race to the Top competition.

"The subtle differences between the SOL and the Common Core do not justify the disruption to instruction, accountability, professional development and teacher preparation that would follow word-for-word adoption of the model national standards," Saslaw wrote.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  June 16, 2010; 12:37 PM ET
Categories:  Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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