Senate Finance Approves SOQ Bill by Substitute; Assessment Bills on the Move
February 3, 2021
February 3, 2021
If it feels like something fishy is going, it may appear that way. On the other hand, it may be just what the doctor ordered. In a move by the Senate Finance Committee today, an amendment made by substitute replaced all of the original language in SB 1257, the School Equity and Staffing Act (SOQ), introduced by Senator Jennifer McClellan. SB1257 now reads, “Each school board shall provide at least two specialized student support positions per 1,000 students. Specialized student support positions would include school social workers, school psychologists, school nurses, licensed behavior analysts, licensed assistant behavior analysts, and other licensed health and behavioral positions, which may either be employed by the school board or provided through contracted services.” It’s estimated the new cost associated with SB 1257 in its current posture would be around $50 million, a far cry from the original investment. The original bill based on HB1800/SB1100, as introduced for the 2021 General Assembly Session, estimated a state investment of $462.3 million in the fiscal year 2022 to implement the originally proposed Senate Bill 1257, as summarized below.
Assistant Principals at 1:400 $ 74,347,126
Early Reading Initiative $ 37,912,383
Elementary School Principals $ 7,537,923
English Language Learners $ 19,679,785
Equity Fund $ 61,904,984
School Counselors at 1:250 $ 51,062,624
Specialized Student Support at 4:1,000 $ 96,014,831
Teacher Leaders and Mentors $ 111,370,068
Principal Mentorship Office at DOE $ 1,237,677
Work-Based Learning Office at DOE $ 1,231,677
Total $ 462,299,079
As the budget process moves forward, we will see whether or not the General Assembly will place any of these priorities at the top of their list to be funded. As of right now, that appears not to be the case, but we will see soon. The money committees will meet this Sunday just before crossover to hash things out.
In other news, bills to reduce or change the way student achievement is assessed are moving forward in the General Assembly.
HB 2027, sponsored by Delegate Carrie Coyner, was approved by the House Appropriations Committee by a vote of 21-1. In lieu of a one-time end-of-year assessment, House Bill 2027 would require the State Board of Education to establish, for the purpose of providing measures of individual student growth over the course of the school year, a through-year growth assessment system aligned with the Standards of Learning, for the administration of reading and mathematics assessments in grades three through eight. Such a through-year growth assessment system shall include at least one beginning-of-year and one end-of-year assessment to provide individual student growth scores over the course of the school year. Still, the total time scheduled for taking all such assessments shall not exceed 150 percent of the time scheduled for taking a single end-of-year proficiency assessment. The bill also requires the Department of Education to ensure adequate training for teachers and principals on interpreting and using student growth data from such assessments to improve reading and mathematics instruction in grades three through eight throughout the school year.
Here is the House Appropriations Committee vote on HB 2027:
YEAS–Torian, Sickles, Plum, Tyler, Bulova, McQuinn, Carr, Krizek, Aird, Hayes, Hurst, Jones, Reid, Cox, Knight, Morefield, Rush, Davis, Austin, Bloxom, Brewer–21.
SB1401, sponsored by Senator Todd Pillion, was reported from the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee by a vote of 10-5. SB1401 would pivot away from statewide high-stakes summative assessments; SB1401 reduces the total number and type of required Standards of Learning assessments to only the minimum requirements established by the federal ESEA Act of 1965, as amended.
Under the requirements of the ESEA both prior to and following the enactment of the ESSA, each state must implement a set of high-quality academic assessments in reading, mathematics, and science. Reading and mathematics assessments must be administered annually in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. Science assessments must be administered at least once within three grade spans (grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12). Assessments in other grades and subject areas may be administered at the discretion of the state.
In 2014, Virginia eliminated the following five elementary and middle school SOL tests: Grade-3 Science, Grade-3 Social Studies, U.S. History to 1865, U.S. History 1865-Present, and Grade-5 Writing. The elimination of these tests reduced the total number of SOL assessments from 34 to 29. SB1401 now moves to the full Senate for debate. Click here to contact your senators and urge them to support SB1401.
Here is the vote count on SB 1401:
Yeas—Deeds, Edwards, Hanger, Howell, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, McClellan, Saslaw, and Vogel—10.
Nays—Barker, Ebbin, Newman, Petersen, Ruff—5.