Education Summit Outlines Challenges for Communities, State

news virginian

By Bob Stuart

The challenge, he explained, is complicated by the fact that a number of immigrant students are not literate in their native language.

Perhaps the most concerning statistic Staples offered is that 40 percent of Virginia’s public school students live in poverty.

Billy Cannaday, the chairman of the Virginia Board of Education, said about 16 percent of those students arrive at school hungry every day. Unfortunately, board members pointed out, there is little this committee can do to help.

On the other hand, there was some good news in Virginia’s accountability testing in 2014-15, Staples said. Overall pass rates went up in all the core areas. However, he said the achievement gaps were still the greatest in the populations growing the fastest — English language learners and students in poverty.

The two-day summit has a broad agenda. Discussions center on charter schools, higher education and potential changes in Virginia’s Standards of Learning program.

During an afternoon discussion about higher education, James Madison University President Jonathan Alger spoke of the need for higher education to collaborate with K-12 education.

Alger said JMU is working with seven Shenandoah Valley school districts on a Valley Scholars program. Students in those districts displaying academic potential will receive a full scholarship to JMU if they meet certain requirements over a five-year period.

Alger said beyond a student’s JMU major, it is important for students to leave the institution with communication, entrepreneurial and other skills that will help them in employment.

Mary Baldwin College President Pamela Fox said that her institution works with Virginia community colleges on transfer programs, and has an articulation agreement on engineering with the University of Virginia.

Moving forward

The first education summit for House Education Committee members was held a year ago.

Del. Steve Landes, chairman of the House Education Committee, said it is vital for legislators to get briefings because education issues are so complex.

He said legislators “can ask questions and be updated on what has happened since last session.” The summit can also serve as preparation for the 2016 General Assembly session.

(Read the original article at The News Virginian)

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