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For Immediate Release
January 7, 2004
Contact: Charles Pyle
Director of Communications
(804) 371-2420
Julie Grimes
Public Information Specialist
(804) 225-2775

Board of Education Seeks Expanded Authority
To Assist Students in Low-Performing School Systems

The Virginia Board of Education is asking the 2004 General Assembly to expand the board’s authority to assist children in chronically low-performing school divisions. The board, at its meeting today in Richmond, unanimously endorsed legislation that would allow the board to go to court to compel uncooperative school divisions to implement plans to improve instruction and raise student achievement.

“At the heart of this proposal are children who are trapped in a handful of school divisions that, either because of intransigence or ineffective leadership, are denying their students a quality education,” said Board President Thomas M. Jackson, Jr. “The future of children should not be held captive by school divisions that have demonstrated their inability to accept and implement reform.”

The legislation would require school boards to maintain schools that are fully accredited and strengthen the authority of the board and the Department of Education to conduct academic reviews of divisions with schools that are on academic warning or have been denied accreditation because of low student achievement. The division-level academic reviews would be similar to the reviews the department currently performs on schools that are on the commonwealth’s academic warning list. The proposal would require school divisions to develop corrective action plans to raise achievement and submit the plans for board approval. If a division failed or refused to implement a plan in a timely or satisfactory manner, the board would have the authority to petition the circuit court with jurisdiction to compel compliance and implementation.

“This would provide the board with a tool to intervene in dysfunctional school divisions,” said Mark E. Emblidge, a former member of the Richmond school board who serves as chairman of the Board of Education’s Committee on the Lowest Performing School Systems. “At the same time, it would strengthen the hands of educators in low-performing school divisions who are truly interested in reform and raising achievement.”

Board President Jackson said that the board would not automatically order a review or seek to intervene if a school division had one or more schools that were below state standards. “This would be a step reserved for cases when other forms of assistance and intervention have failed to break down the barriers between children and effective instruction and reform,” Mr. Jackson said.

The Constitution of Virginia gives the Board of Education general supervisory authority over the commonwealth’s public schools, but the day-to-day management of school divisions, including decisions regarding the assignment, promotion, and retention of teachers, principals, and administrators is left to local school boards. The constitution and state law do not provide for the board or Department of Education to “take over” the management of low-performing schools and school systems.

The legislation endorsed by the board today would expand the board’s authority to conduct academic reviews by providing a means of enforcing agreements between the board and school divisions to implement effective educational policies and practices.

“Excuses about certain children not being able to learn are not acceptable,” said Mr. Jackson. “There are schools all over the commonwealth, in rural communities and in inner cities, that are showing that when educators believe in their students’ potential and implement best practices, achievement and learning improve. The legislation the board is requesting would allow us to intervene in those few corners of our K-12 school system that have refused to accept this good news.”