Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed legislation Thursday aimed at transforming how high schools prepare students for the future.
The legislation directs the Virginia Department of Education to create a “Profile of a Virginia Graduate,” which will identify what skills students need in high school and then change statewide graduation requirements to meet the expectations laid out in the profile.
Driving the new standards is a realization that not all students want, need or should go to college. The idea is for the profiles to identify the core skills individual students need for the tracks they should follow in order to make sure they are prepared to enter either the workforce or college.
“The underlying structure of high school is still based on expectations rooted in the Industrial Revolution,” McAuliffe said at a bill signing in Northern Virginia.
“In fact, high school hasn’t changed much since the 19th century, even though our graduates are competing for jobs in the 21st.”
State Sen. John C. Miller, D-Newport News, who died last month, sponsored the Senate version of the legislation.
Miller said in February that he envisioned students taking core classes their first two years of high school. Those who want to go to college would then take courses that would best prepare them for post-secondary education, while those who want to enter the workforce after high school would have the flexibility to earn credits toward their diplomas for internships, apprenticeships and industry certification.
In both cases, he said, students would be exposed to training, community college, guidance and courses designed to ensure they are prepared to tackle whichever track they follow after high school.
Miller’s widow, Sharon, and daughter Jenny attended Thursday’s bill signing.
“They know how much this legislation means to him, and it is an important part of his legacy,” McAuliffe said.
The legislation came about, in part, from recommendations issued last year by the SOL Innovation Committee, a nonpartisan group of legislators and a range of educational leaders.
A second piece of legislation signed into law Thursday calls for the Board of Education to provide three-year licenses for industry professionals to teach high school career and technical education courses. This is designed to help get students training from people working in specific fields.