Cuccinelli Highlights K-12 Initiatives

Gubernatorial Hopeful Talks Education At JMU

Posted: October 9, 2013

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor, explains his education plan to students at James Madison University on Tuesday. (Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli highlighted aspects of his education plan at JMU on Tuesday.
HARRISONBURG — Gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli dropped by James Madison University Tuesday to highlight K-12 education plans he says will enact if elected to the state’s top office in November.

In a half-hour talk — which was cut short because he was running behind schedule — the Republican candidate gave a rundown of his 12-point K-12 education plan, which was unveiled in August. He also made a stop in Roanoke on Tuesday for the same purpose.

“We have a good system in Virginia overall,” said Cuccinelli, who is challenging Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Libertarian Robert Sarvis on the ballot for governor. “[I’m] trying not to bite off more than we can chew, but still make a couple of key advances for kids in Virginia.”

Cuccinelli highlighted aspects of his plans that he says will match curriculum to workforce needs, expand digital learning opportunities and increase support for teachers. He would also like to provide more flexibility for students who attend “failing schools.”

He said he would propose legislation that allows parents to petition to either close failing schools, convert them to charter schools, put new leadership in place or enroll children in another school — public or private — with the aid of scholarships or tax credits.

The legislation will “empower parents to be able to choose what they want for failing schools,” Cuccinelli said.

School choice is a controversial topic amongst educators. Rather than supporting charter schools and funneling state money into them — or other public school alternatives — public educators often argue that money should be put back into public schools, which have been subject to federal and state budget cuts and an increasing amount of mandates in recent years.

Del. Tony Wilt, R-Broadway, introduced Cuccinelli, Virginia’s current attorney general, at Tuesday’s event.

“[His education plan] is very detailed,” Wilt said. “It’s not something he just came up with off-the-cuff.”

Cuccinelli also talked about his proposal to create a commission that would operate under the Virginia Board of Education to review and revise the Standards of Learning tests.

In Virginia, SOLs are given at various grade levels in core subject areas, and are the main basis for both state and federal accountability systems. Students taking the SOLs must achieve certain passing rates for individual schools and divisions to be deemed successful.

The governor hopeful’s plan calls for the assessment tests to be based on knowledge and problem-solving, not “rote memorization.”

“SOL revision will be a long-term undertaking,” Cuccinelli said. “My opponent has also talked about reforming Standards of Learning, that is an area where there’s some mutual agreement.”

McAuliffe’s plan, which was released in May, calls for flexibility in SOL testing time and format, a commission to study the content and format of the tests and a move to short answer-based testing when possible.

Both McAuliffe and Cuccinelli would like emphasis placed on individual student progress.

“If a 5th grade teacher gets a child reading at a 1st grade level and, by the end of the year, has that child reading at a 4th grade level, the current system calls that teacher a failure,” McAuliffe’s plan reads. “We must move toward progress-based data instead of simplistic grade level requirements.”

McAuliffe’s plan also calls for increased partnerships between businesses and community colleges, restoring funding to public education and increasing support for teachers and prekindergarten and early childhood education.

On his website, Sarvis calls for expanding school choice, eliminating SOL tests completely and rewarding teachers based on performance.
 
Contact Emily Sharrer at 574-6286 or esharrer@dnronline.com


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