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Winchester's Lineburg Kicks off Instructional Conference

"I'm a firm believer in no excuses," Winchester Superintendent Mark Lineburg told attendees at VEA's Instruction and Professional Development Conference. "Poverty is not an excuse for poor achievement-but neither should politicians make excuses for not helping students in poverty."

The keynote speaker for the conference, Lineburg went on to paint a pretty grim picture of what many of our students and educators are facing. Students from disadvantaged families often don't have access to the technology they're expected to use in school, don't come to school prepared to learn, lack healthy diets or even sufficient food. And it's a growing problem throughout Virginia.

It's also a disproportionate problem: "The lowest-achieving schools are all the same," said Lineburg, also the co-author of Educating Students in Poverty. "They're black, brown and poor. The numbers we should be looking at in public education might not be the SOLs, but the percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch."

Lineburg also offered a lineup of factors needed to make significant progress in the battle against the impact of poverty in schools, pointing to intangibles, such as relationships, teamwork and leadership; more widely available preschool; instructional innovations and better technology access; extended school days and years; more proactive student discipline and bullying prevention; finding ways to increase attendance; boosting student wellness and nutrition; and increasing student participation in extracurricular activities.

"There's nothing more important than attacking poverty, and no one better to do it than our public schools," Lineburg said.

His speech was followed by a panel discussion on education issues featuring Virginia Delegates Jennifer McClellan and Thomas "Tag" Greason, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Steve Staples, and NEA Secretary-Treasurer Princess Moss, a former VEA president.

Questions from the audience touched on preschool education, the A-F grading system for schools, the Standards of Learning, teacher pay and the needs of special education and ELL students.

Staples urged educators to be involved in crafting future accountability systems for schools, warning that too many decisions have been made by people outside of education and, "If you're not at the table, you're probably on the menu."

Greason stressed the importance of early childhood education, saying, "If you use a flawed design to build a house, you're going to spend an enormous amount of money over the life of that house trying to fix it."

McClellan called for teachers to be paid better. "They don't leave at three," she said, "and many of them don't even leave at six. And when they do leave, they're heading home to do some more work. And they can't survive on what they're making."

Moss described some of the efforts being made by NEA at the national level, including creating a list of some 200 research-based indicators to use to gauge school success.

The sold-out conference runs November 21-22 and will next feature a wide range of breakout sessions for the more than 300 educators in attendance.

For more conference coverage, visit VEA's Facebook page at For conference photos, go to


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