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Virginia Journal of Education


Virginia Board of Ed
Identifies School Needs

RICHMOND—As part of its charge to ensure that all of the commonwealth’s young people receive an equal opportunity for an excellent public education, the Virginia Board of Education has released its 2009 Report on the Condition and Needs of Public Schools in Virginia. Here are some of our schools’ areas of need, as identified by the Board, which will use this list to focus its actions.

• Funding the Standards of Quality: Our current difficult economic climate poses a threat to the stability of public education, but “we must remain committed to delivering results.”

• Persistent poverty: One in 10 citizens of Virginia lives in poverty. Children who grow up poor are more likely to be sick as toddlers, be unprepared to begin school, fall behind in elementary school, or drop out in high school.

• Changing demographics: In 1998, our state’s public schools had fewer than 27,000 students with limited English proficiency. By 2008, more than 87,000 such children attended our schools. Today, one of every 10 Virginians is foreign-born.

• Achievement gaps: There are still persistent gaps in graduation rates between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian peers in the commonwealth, as well as for economically disadvantaged students.

• Availability and use of latest technology: Today’s students have grown up with a markedly different technology environment than their predecessors did, and the rate of change is accelerating.

• Safe, healthy environments for students and educators: “The Board must help local divisions by providing solid, workable guidelines and policies to assist those who are responsible for the health and safety of students and staff while they are at school, on school grounds, on their way to and from school, and involved in school-sponsored activities.”

• Assisting chronically low-performing schools: The Board supports “aggressive interventions by the Virginia Department of Education.”

The Board also noted in the report that 98 percent of Virginia’s public schools are fully accredited as of 2008-09, the highest percentage since the state began accrediting schools based on student achievement a decade ago. Also, 82 percent of the class of 2008 graduated on time with a diploma.

Afterschool Programs
Can’t Keep Up With Need

WASHINGTON, D.C.—While the number of children in afterschool programs in the U.S. has risen in the last five years, over a quarter of the nation’s schoolchildren are on their own in the afternoon, and the parents of 18 million children say they would enroll their children in afterschool programs if such options were available. Those figures are among the results of a survey conducted for the Afterschool Alliance and sponsored by the JCPenney Afterschool Fund.

Here are some other findings from the study, entitled “America After 3 P.M.”:

• 15.1 million school-age children, or 26 percent, are left alone after the school day. That’s 800,000 more than when the study was done in 2004.
• Americans support afterschool programs: Nine in 10 parents say they’re satisfied with program their children attend, and 8 in 10 support public funding for afterschool programs.
• Afterschool programs have become more available in the last five years, but need and demand are growing faster: 8.4 million schoolchildren (15 percent) now participate in such programs, up from 6.5 million in 2004, but 18.5 million children’s parents are still seeking an afterschool opportunity.

“The bottom line is that more children need—and don’t have—afterschool programs today than five years ago,” says Jodi Grant, executive director of the Afterschool Alliance. “Today in our country, too many parents are unable to enroll their kids in afterschool programs because they’re not available, transportation is unworkable, or they can’t afford the fees. We need to increase our efforts to keep up with the rising demand and make sure that afterschool is available to all children who need it.”

NEA to Invest $6M
in Struggling Schools

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The NEA, as part of the follow-up to its new report, “Children of Poverty Deserve Great Teachers: One Union’s Commitment to Changing the Status Quo,” will invest $1 million annually for the next six years to help develop comprehensive strategies and policies to increase teacher effectiveness in high-needs schools.

The report offers research-based plans for boosting such schools, including a move away from scripted instruction to creative teaching and inquiry learning; improved working conditions; giving teachers the opportunity to team with colleagues; and developing principals who are encouraging of teacher leadership.

“If we expect to transform our public schools, we must take action now,” says NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Great teachers, with the right policy supports, are the ideal agents of meaningful and sustainable change in our most challenged schools.”



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