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Richmond Times-Dispatch - High Stakes Newsletter | RTD's Education focused news each week
Sunday, November 17th, 2019

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Losing weight

Virginia's education leaders have approved another change that takes emphasis away from test scores.

The state Board of Education last week overhauled teacher evaluations, lessening the weight of standardized tests on a teacher's rating from 40% to 15%. Scores have been at the 40% weight since 2012 amid the most recent education reform movement.

“Teaching is a complex science and an art. As a teacher, I welcome all students into my classroom. Students come to me from a variety of backgrounds, academic levels and experiences,” said Keri Treadway, a teacher at William Fox Elementary in Richmond. “My job is to meet students where they are and help them learn, grow and develop. Student test scores only show a small snapshot of one day in the life of a student and not an overall picture of the teaching and learning the students have accomplished throughout the year.”

This matters for a lot of reasons - there are more than 100,000 teachers in Virginia - but one of the main ones is the state's rethinking of accountability.

The strong emphasis on test scores in a teacher’s evaluation was a product of the education reform movement of the late 2000s and early 2010s. Education reform advocates have championed using test scores as the best way to evaluate schools and teachers.

Test scores used to be essentially the sole measure in Virginia's accreditation system. It's not anymore. Students used to have to pass more SOLs than they do now to graduate.

This is the latest move in getting away from that...clears throat...high stakes culture.

Here's our full story.

The same request as last week: We write a series of stories every year around the holidays on people in our community making a difference. I would love to feature an educator who goes above and beyond, a volunteer who is relentless in their support, or someone who is changing lives in the education space. More information on nominations and the series can be found here.

Question of the week: Should test scores be a factor in a teacher's evaluation? If so, how much should they be weighted?

(ABOVE PHOTO BY DEAN HOFFMEYER/TIMES-DISPATCH: During a Veterans Day ceremony at Washington-Henry Elementary school in Mechanicsville, WWII veteran James Wallace Yarbrough is presented an honorary diploma by school principal Lisa Thompson (right) and Hanover superintendent Dr. Michael Gill (left). Yarbrough was called away from the former Washington-Henry high school during his senior year in 1944 to join the Army.)

Making the rounds

  • A Hanover County veteran was awarded a high school diploma more than 75 years after he put his education on pause to serve in World War II.
  • The Hanover School Board is meeting this week to potentially settle the lawsuit brought on by the NAACP over the names of Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School.
  • A group of Richmond principals ran the 8k together this weekend after training together in what became not only a time to run, but a time for bonding.
  • Richmond-area teachers got a combined $210,000 to travel the world to improve their instruction.
  • The Hanover County School Board wants a raise and it's asking the General Assembly for help.
  • A 12-year-old was shot in South Richmond this week. Ali Rockett talked to the father.
  • The Henrico County School Board approved a five-year facilities plan, Chris Suarez reports.
  • The Thomas Jefferson High School football team is having a really good season, Tim Pearrell writes. Eric Kolenich also wrote about Teejay and the team's scheduled.
  • The officers who shot VCU alumnus Bijan Ghaisar won't face charges, according to The Washington Post.
  • The Post also says Virginia Tech is opening a research facility in D.C. focused on pediatric health.
  • Matt Jones at The Daily Press writes that Christopher Newport University education students were greeted with a nice surprise last week: job offers.
  • The state is investigating Loudoun County Public Schools for discrimination, according to the Loudoun Times-Mirror.
  • Free wedding dresses for teachers. That's cool. I'll turn it over to the Virginian-Pilot for more.
  • A handful of Norfolk students were told they got scholarships but really they didn't. The School Board had to create a special scholarship to resolve the error, Sara Gregory at the Pilot says.
  • The Roanoke Times reports that the only school district west of the Richmond area that has historically opened after Labor Day is starting before Labor Day next year.
  • Fredericksburg is getting its first black superintendent, according to The Free Lance-Star.
  • Mechelle Hankerson at The Virginia Mercury has a good story on the state's financial aid formula.
  • Virginia State University and Richard Bland College reached a new guaranteed admission agreement, the Progress-Index tells us.

(ABOVE PHOTO BY ALEXA EDLUND/TIMES-DISPATCH: Mandelia Fisher teaches an arithmetic lesson at Chimborazo Elementary School Tuesday, November 12, 2019. Fisher won $10,300 from the Community Foundation on Monday to attend the National Conference for Creating Trauma-Sensitive Schools in Atlanta and explore the architecture, culture and cuisines of New York, Egypt and Singapore.)

In brief

A central Virginia Democrat will lead the House of Delegates Education Committee.

Del. Roslyn Tyler, D-Sussex, was announced as the education committee's chairwoman by House Speaker-designee Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, on Nov. 14. Tyler was first elected in 2005.

“She’s an avid supporter of students and teachers and the work they do every day," Virginia Education Association President Jim Livingston said in a statement. "I can’t think of a better choice to lead this important committee.”

The General Assembly session starts Jan. 8.


Richmond Public Schools is launching a new crossing guard pilot program.

The city school system announced Nov. 14 that it was partnering with Richmond City Safe Routes to Schools to provide crossing guards at 11 schools and traffic monitors to three schools this year. The schools were chosen based on the number of students walking to and from school and the safety needs of school communities.

“While the focus is on the safety of our students and families, we are also very intentional about creating safe and loving school environments through this pilot,” said RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras. “Each crossing guard from the program works at that school, so they are already familiar with the school community, which empowers them to continue to build on their relationships with students and families.”

The schools involved in the pilot program are:

Crossing Guards

  • Blackwell Elementary School
  • George W. Carver Elementary School
  • Fairfield Court Elementary School
  • Ginter Park Elementary School
  • Linwood Holton Elementary School
  • Mary Munford Elementary School
  • Oak Grove-Bellemeade Elementary School
  • Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts
  • Swansboro Elementary School
  • Westover Hills Elementary School
  • Woodville Elementary School

Traffic Monitors

  • E.S.H. Greene Elementary School
  • Broad Rock Elementary School
  • J.L. Francis Elementary School


Virginia Union University is creating a new society to honor Wyatt Tee Walker.

The university announced Nov. 11 that it's forming the "Rev. Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker Social Justice Society of Preachers and Prophetic Witnesses." The first members will be inducted in November 2020.

“We are honored to take part in the building of such an extraordinary honor in the name of our dear friend and alumnus Dr. Wyatt T. Walker,” said Hakim Lucas, VUU's president. “Virginia Union University will forever honor its son by honoring those who embody his advocacy for social justice and Afrocentric ideals in the areas of scholarship, theology, service, leadership, preaching, teaching, community, government, public policy and music. May this declaration, guide us as we begin to invest and to celebrate his legacy.”

Walker, a VUU alumnus, served as chief of staff for Martin Luther King, Jr. He was the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from 1960 to 1964.

Around the nation

  1. Chalkbeat, my favorite education-only news outlet, got a new website. They have a helpful story on the education implications of the Supreme Court’s DACA decision.
  2. HuffPost profiled Betsy DeVos and her longevity in Trump’s Cabinet. It’s a good read.
  3. Meanwhile, in Texas, there are food delivery robots.
  4. Bonus: Erica Green (New York Times) on the Flint water crisis and education.

Study hall

  1. The National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools says in a new report that charter schools have a higher percentage of enrollment of students with autism.
  2. According to Education Commission of the States, Virginia was one of 26 states this year to enact a law related to the postsecondary workforce.

Because you made it this far

  • On this day in 2011, One Direction released its debut album, “Up All Night.” Colonel Sanders was married on this day in 1948.
  • Happy birthday to “Big Papi,” David Ortiz. Len Bias, the basketball star who died suddenly in 1986, was born on this day as well.
  • Chester Arthur, the 21st U.S. president, died on this day in 1886.
  • It’s National Princess Day. It’s time for people to let it go and realize that Elsa has nothing on the original Disney princesses.


Justin Mattingly

Your host, Justin Mattingly, covers P-12 and higher education for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He likes baseball (go Cardinals), a good book (especially biographies) and one stop light small towns. Drop him a line at jmattingly@timesdispatch.com.