Salem City Schools
Scheduled for Adoption: November 8, 2016
The Salem City School Division envisions an exciting future for Salem’s children. Achieving this vision will require purposeful elimination of some traditional barriers prescribed by outdated laws and regulations that have failed to keep pace with innovation in Salem City Schools. The purpose of this document is to advocate for necessary legislative and regulatory changes to provide those who serve children the opportunity to innovate on their behalf.
Teaching and learning are extremely complex processes. While public education is a national priority and a state responsibility, it is ultimately a local function. The Salem City School Board urges state and federal government leaders to create the conditions that facilitate innovation by supporting local School Board authority, while avoiding the temptation to micromanage a local function.
The 2017 session of the General Assembly will consider numerous issues of profound importance to the Commonwealth’s public school students and to the school employees who deliver the promise of a high quality public education. Positions adopted by the Salem City School Board will be communicated to Salem’s legislators before the Assembly convenes. Legislators are urged to contact the Board or the Superintendent regarding legislation with implications for Salem’s children.
School Funding – The Salem City School Board urges the General Assembly to adopt a state budget that fully funds its commitment to teacher compensation. The 2016 General Assembly initially provided a much‐needed increase to K‐12 education, but state funding was still set to be less than 2006 in inflation‐controlled dollars (see attached) and that was before state budget shortfalls triggered a rollback of the budget, including state funds for teacher raises.
School Divisions of Innovation – The Salem City School Board recommends that the General Assembly encourage true innovation by offering a package of waivers from onerous and outdated regulations for a select number of divisions who successfully apply for the designation “School Division of Innovation.”
Assessment and Accountability – The Salem City School Board strongly urges a move to reduce and replace current SOL tests in carefully selected grade‐levels and content‐areas to permit the reallocation of assessment dollars for better assessments. Specifically, rather than using outdated approaches to assessment (like the current SOL tests) as the primary assessment and then offering alternative assessments, SCS recommends “flipping” the approach to encourage the use of superior assessments (MAP, PSAT, ACT, SAT, VPT, IB, AP) first and then only require students who have not demonstrated proficiency on the those assessments to take SOL tests.
The pages that follow are offered as a potential resource for elected representatives when considering specific legislation the Board expects may be considered by the General Assembly.
K‐12 Education Funding
Source: Fiscal Analytics 2016
Current Reality: The biennial state budget adopted by the 2016 General Assembly was lifted up in a bipartisan manner as an investment in K‐12 education. Unfortunately, state revenue triggers automatically rolled back the state’s share of a desperately needed raise for teachers. Now honoring that commitment to teachers in FY 17 falls entirely on localities, compounding the unsustainable trend in the wake of the Great Recession of shifting the state’s responsibility for K‐12 funding to localities.
Legislative Recommendation: The state budget should pay for its share of what it requires localities and school division to do. Specifically, the Salem City School Board urges the General Assembly remove positions directly related to instruction in the classroom from the “SOQ Support Staff Cap” that was implemented simply to reduce state basic aid to localities in response to the budget crisis created by The Great Recession. The current cap was calculated not by what is required to provide a quality educational program, but by what multiplier would balance the state budget. It not only shifted the state’s responsibility to localities, it has artificially depressed the re‐benchmarking calculation.
Specifically, the Salem City School Board urges the General Assembly to:
Pass a state budget within the defined annual meeting timeframe
Fully fund the cost of re‐benchmarking and the past‐due increase in teacher compensation.
Restore SOQ Support Cost Reductions:
o Previous reductions should be considered temporary and restored with immediate priority and before additional resources are directed to incentive funding
o Fully fund support positions according to the best practices of school divisions
School Divisions of Innovation (SDI):
Vision: To incentivize and encourage innovation for the purpose of creating new structures for K‐12 educational systems across the Commonwealth in order to support student preparation for college, career, and citizenship post high school as well as promote economic and workforce development.
Currently, there are examples of innovative school models (Governor’s Schools, High School Innovation Grants, academy/magnet programs, New Tech Network Schools) in place at certain schools throughout the Commonwealth. However, there are a limited number of examples of innovation in place for every child at all levels in a school division. While significant, these school‐specific programs serve a limited number of children. There is an opportunity to engage entire communities to bring innovative models to scale at the school division level.
To provide Virginia school divisions the opportunity to apply to the Virginia Board of Education to be exempt from certain administrative and statutory provisions in an effort to support evidence‐based, innovative programs that improve student learning, engage and motivate more students, promote personalized learning opportunities for students, and increase the numbers of students who graduate college, career, and citizenship ready.
●”School Division of Innovation” or SDI means a local school division that has developed a plan of innovation in compliance with this section and has been approved by the Board of Education to be exempted from certain administrative regulations and statutory provisions to improve the educational performance of students within the division.
●”Innovation” means a new or creative alternative to existing instructional and administrative practices and school structures, one which evidence suggests will be effective in improving learning and performance of all students.
Authorize the Virginia Board of Education to approve School Divisions of Innovation (SDI) for the purposes of improving students’ academic performance as well as college, career, and citizenship readiness skills. School Divisions of Innovation shall be provided flexibility from selected BOE/DOE Administrative Regulations and Code of Virginia Requirements to permit the establishment of local board of education policies for school administrators, teachers, and staff to meet the diverse needs of students. The initial approval of a School Division of Innovation shall be for a five (5) year period. Each renewal shall not exceed five (5) years and shall comply with administrative regulations promulgated by the BOE.
The Virginia Board of Education shall promulgate regulations to prescribe the conditions and procedures to be used by a local school board to be approved as a School Division of Innovation (SDI).
Administrative regulations promulgated by the Board shall specify:
A. The application, plan review, approval, and amendment process for a division;
B. Timelines for initial approval as a division of innovation, the renewal process, and on‐going evaluative procedures required of the division;
C. Acceptable documentation of a critical mass of parental, community, educator, and business support and capacity to effect a change;
D. Evidence of teacher collaboration, support, and shared leadership within the division;
E. The process of revocation of the SDI designation;
F. Suggested areas of emphasis for innovation and evidence of relevant professional development within the proposed innovation design; and
G. Specific measures of success, which may include alternate assessments or approved substitute tests that will be used to determine if students have met graduation requirements.
H. Other components deemed necessary to implement this section
As part of the regulations, a division which is an applicant to be designated as a School Division of Innovation will be expected to: 1) Establish goals and performance targets for the division of innovation proposal, which may include:
a) Reducing achievement and opportunity gaps among groups of public school students by expanding the range of engaging and relevant learning experiences for students who are identified as academically low‐achieving;
b) Increasing student learning through the implementation of high, rigorous standards for student performance and balanced assessments that measure both student growth and achievement;
c) Creating opportunities for students to demonstrate mastery of learning at different points in the learning process based on readiness;
d) Increasing the participation of students in opportunities to enhance students’
preparation for college, career, and citizenship;
e) Increasing the number of students who are college, career, and citizenship‐ready;
f) Providing flexibility to teacher licensure requirements to provide students opportunities
to learn from content experts through integrated course opportunities; and
g) Motivating students at all levels by offering additional curricular choices, personalized learning opportunities, and relevant student learning experiences to students within the division (i.e. community service projects, internship opportunities, and job shadowing);
2) Identify changes needed in the division and schools to lead to better‐prepared students for success in life and work; 3) Have a division‐wide plan of innovation that describes how all schools will incorporate innovative practices; 4) Provide documentation of community, educator, parental support in the development of the local board’s application and proposed innovations; 5) Provide information regarding the rationale of requests for waivers from Code of Virginia requirements and Board of Education administrative regulations.
Assessment and Accountability:
Flipping the System to Promote College and Career Readiness
(If College/Career Ready, Why Prep for a High School Test?)
Current Reality: Throughout Virginia, there are high school students who are dual‐enrolled in the Virginia Community College System having passed the Virginia Placement Test (VPT) to demonstrate their readiness for college level English and/or mathematics and tens of thousands more who take the PSAT and meet or exceed college‐ready benchmarks in English and/or mathematics. Yet even these high achieving students will still be required to take end‐of‐course SOL tests.
It is a waste of instructional time, student time, and state assessment resources to persist in requiring these students to take an inferior test that everyone know they will pass because they have already passed more rigorous assessments. Students should have the opportunity for their prior high achievement to exempt them from SOL tests and schools should be able to count these students in both the numerator and denominator for the purpose of accountability and data disaggregation.
Legislative Recommendation: The Salem City School Board strongly urges the General Assembly to direct the State Board of Education to reduce and replace current SOL tests to carefully selected grade‐levels and content‐areas to permit the reallocation of assessment dollars for better assessments.
Specifically, rather than using outdated approaches to assessment (like the current SOL tests) as the primary assessment and then permitting substitute tests, SCS recommends “flipping” the approach to encourage the use of superior assessments first, including prudent expansion of the alternative performance‐based assessments and the use of nationally recognized assessments (MAP, PSAT, ACT, SAT, VPT, IB, AP, etc.). Then, only students who have not demonstrated proficiency on those assessments should be required to take SOL tests.
Practical Example: Currently 11th grade Salem students in IB English 1 who have already demonstrated college readiness on the Virginia Placement Test (VPT) to take Dual Enrolled English and who exceeded benchmarks on the PSAT in the 10th grade, still must redirect precious instructional time away from their internationally‐benchmarked curriculum to take the English 11 SOL Test.
In the proposed approach, the basic state test remains “curriculum aligned” for students who need it, but by using the existing state‐wide Student Test Identifier schools could pre‐verify credits before the 11th grade SOL Test Administration and count those student in both the numerator (as passing the verified assessment) and the denominator (as taking an assessment) in the 11th grade.
Students who do not pass the alternative tests would have the benefit of the existing 11th grade year in English to master the content and demonstrate their proficiency on the traditional state SOL test. In this manner the number and percentage of students achieving this essential accountability benchmark would still be reported and disaggregated by Reporting Group.
This example, while using the 11th grade English SOL Test, also applies to mathematics and science verified credits where huge proportions of high school students already demonstrate their mastery on superior assessments of more rigorous standards and should have the opportunity “test out” of the lesser SOL tests.
Local Board Authority to Establish a School Calendar
Current Reality: Local School Boards should be empowered to establish a school calendar that meets the needs of the communities they are sworn to serve.
Legislative Recommendation: Repeal § 22.1‐79.1 and permit local School Boards to establish a school calendar that reflects the needs of the locality and fulfills the instructional time requirements established by the State Board of Education.
Current Reality: As complex as the processes of teaching and learning are, there is one simple truth. If a child is not in school, the child cannot benefit from the process of teaching and learning.
Increasing student achievement and growth, increasing the on‐time graduation rate, and even combating childhood obesity by increasing physical activity all require that children be in school. Well intentioned diversion efforts in Juvenile Courts have helped some children and families connect to community‐based supports. Unfortunately, the same efforts have helped other families “play the system” permitting entire semesters and, in some cases, entire school years to pass before the student and family experience meaningful court‐ordered sanctions, if they are imposed at all.
Legislative Recommendation: School division leaders do not presume to know how to lead a Juvenile Court Services Unit. The Salem City School Board does respectfully request that consideration be given to establishing an expedited process for a Superintendent or designee to “fast track” especially egregious truancy matters. Input is welcome by those who do lead Court Services Units to improve available sanctions for families who persist in their disregard for compulsory school attendance.
Current Reality: As Division Leaders charged with securing and allocating the resources necessary to ensure that our school divisions are the best choice for our students, it is important to note that the Salem City School Board is not opposed to school choice. On the contrary, the Salem City School Board supports and encourages parents to be engaged in the lives of their children and to facilitate their learning and preparation for life. Division Leaders routinely collaborate with other providers of educational services in our communities and have a history of modifying existing programs and establishing new opportunities to meet the changing needs of children parents, and employers.
Much of the dialogue in Virginia regarding Charter Schools, Virtual Schools, and Lab Schools is still inherently limited in that it represents “all or none” solutions. The idea that children in the future will attend only one school or engage in instruction in only one manner is contrary to the increasingly flexible and individualized learning opportunities flourishing in the Information Age.
Legislative Recommendation: Consideration and study is necessary to determine how local school divisions can both encourage and enable current students to make “selections” from a “menu” of educational opportunities. Blended learning, which includes traditional classroom instruction, locally developed online coursework, and online coursework provided by third party providers, will become increasingly desired by students and families seeking to customize their educational experience. Similarly, students who are currently homeschooled or enrolled in private schools are increasingly aware of the terrific opportunities provided by our local school divisions and may seek to participate in part.
The Salem City School Board opposes any redistribution of the local share to virtual providers. Because SOQ staffing requirements do not apply to online providers the SOQ funding formulas should not be used. Additionally, the Salem City School Board opposes any change to the Virginia Constitution that would reduce local authority to govern schools and empower another state‐level entity to make decisions that are in the purview of a local school board. The State Board of Education already has the authority to seize control of schools that do not meet accreditation standards. Localities with high performing schools should be free from bureaucratic micromanagement from the Commonwealth. Rather than circumvent local authority for the sake of special interests at the state level, the democratic process in localities should be trusted.
Salem City Schools
2017 Standing Legislative Positions
Proposed October 11, 2016
In addition to the annual list of Legislative Priorities, the Board and the Superintendent of Schools will monitor the proceedings of the 2017 General Assembly and make known to its representatives the Board’s positions on other issues that may arise.
The following chart is provided to indicate standing issues of particular interest to the City of Salem School Board and the Board’s official position on each issue. The Board makes every effort to communicate with elected representative and also urges legislators and state officials to contact the Board or the Superintendent regarding legislation that might have implications
for public education.
Budget and Financial Issues
Fully funding the re‐benchmarking of the Standards of Quality (SOQ) so that the standards are, “realistic in relation to the Commonwealth’s current education needs and practices” (Code of Virginia – 22.1‐253.13.1)
Changes in the Standards of Quality (SOQ) Funding Formula (such as arbitrary staffing caps) which would reduce any funds to local school divisions.
Funding annual raises using the linear weighted average and real inflation figures derived from annual reports from the school divisions.
Reducing funds to Risk Reduction Programs that are essential to assisting at‐risk and disadvantaged students achieve the high standards necessary to earn a diploma.
Reinstate full funding for the Western Virginia Public Education Consortium to support and promote collaboration and the sharing of best practices in the school divisions of Alleghany.
Bath, Bland, Botetourt, Craig, Floyd, Franklin, Giles, Henry, Montgomery, Patrick, Pulaski, Roanoke, and Wythe and the cities of Covington, Martinsville, Radford, Roanoke, and Salem.
Increase state reimbursement for school lunches to .10 per student lunch and .05 per student breakfast
Continued use of the Literary Fund for purposes other than school construction.Oppose
Supplanting state or local support for public education through use of federal monies
Reinstate funding of the School Construction Program
Maintain and consider increasing state funds for Instructional Technology
Expenditure of public funds on private schools through tuition tax credits or tuition vouchers
Fiscal autonomy for elected school boards
Changes to the authority of local governments to set and collect local real estate taxes
Employment Issues Expansion of grievance procedures for Licensed and Continuing Contract Employees to Employees with an Annual Notice of Employment.
Continuing the requirement for teaching experience in order to obtain licensure as a school leader whether by traditional or alternative licensure
Amendment of the grievance procedure to provide for the decision of the grievance panel to be final and binding
Establishment of negotiation rights for school employees
Establishment of term contracts for professional staff
Requirements for written contracts for at‐will employees (nonteachers)
School Board Governance Issues
Control of the school board calendar as authority of local school board (complete and total repeal of the requirement to open school after Labor Day)
Maintaining that only parents or legal guardians may make educational decisions for students and require that “Kinship Care” arrangements be reviewed by Local Departments of Social Services or approved by a District Juvenile Court
Increased court intervention for students and penalties for parents in proven cases of truancy.
Maintaining the authority of local school boards granted in Article VIII, Section 7 of the Constitution to regulate firearms on school property and at school events, including school board meetings
Parental choice of schools either within or across school divisions
Maintaining the Virginia High School League as a voluntary association to regulate high school competition
Legislation or BOE/DOE Regulation seeking to regulate the VHSL
Maintaining the Virginia charter school law in its present form whereby local school boards retain authority and control over such schools
State Leadership on Federal Issues
The Salem City School Division supports the 2015 Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now referred to as ESSA) and urges the BOE/DOE to extend the spirit of increased local control. Further, the Salem City School Board encourages the BOE/DOE to rethink and redesign assessment in the Commonwealth in a manner outlined in the Board’s Position on Assessment and Accountability and in an effort to take full advantage of the flexibility ESSA extends to states so that students and teachers in Virginia may begin to transform the current 1990’s approach to assessment in Virginia.