Thursday, January 8, 2009

School House Rock

According to Education Week's Annual Quality Report, Virginia schools rank 4th in the nation with a grade of "B." Virginia is up from 5th place last year and trails only Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York. According to the report, Virginia ranks high in standards, accountability, and students' chances of success and was above the national average in all areas except funding equity where the Commonwealth got a "C+."
Funding disparity has long been an issue facing the General Assembly and is raised year after year by school boards and the Virginia Education Association. While the Virginia Constitution calls for the same quality education for each child, per pupil spending in wealthy areas like NOVA far outpaces that in rural communities such as those found in the Shenandoah Valley.
The Education Week report does highlight one area of concern for Virginia and many other states - a growing shortage of English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers. While this shortage hits some regions harder than others, the need is apparent in most school divisions. Harrisonburg schools, for example, have nearly two dozen languages spoken by students. Currently, Virginia has one ESL teacher for every 49 English language learners. Demand for ESL teachers is expected to increase by over 60% during the next five years.
Education Week's report is worth crowing about! It is good news for Virginia students, parents, and educators and signals there is no need for vouchers or tax credits for private schools. Especially in times of budget cuts, the state's commitment must be 100% for public education. Public dollars for public schools which meet the standards of public accountability.

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