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Compass Point
A Collection of Data, Articles and Insights from the Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute
A program of Virginia Commonwealth University's Office of Public Policy Outreach
L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs
Recent State and Local Education News
‘We don’t pretend this is over’: After Charlottesville, colleges expect trouble
The Washington Post
August 29, 2017

Earlier this month, white nationalist leader Richard Spencer rallied hundreds of torch-bearing followers for a march through the heart of the University of Virginia that began a weekend of rage and violence. He hopes to go back to Charlottesville soon.

“Colleges and universities are a great venue,” Spencer said. “I will never give those up.”

As the fall semester begins, schools across the United States are girding for fights over controversial speakers after an incendiary year that began with clashes at the University of California at Berkeley and worsened at U-Va. One by one in the days since the Charlottesville mayhem on Aug. 11 and 12, major public universities have shut their doors to Spencer and his followers. Their decisions illuminate the challenge of balancing campus values, security concerns and free speech protections.
Parents' complaints about special education spurs changes in Virginia Beach schools
The Virginian-Pilot
August 25, 2017

Letters and words can appear jumbled to 10-year-old Ella Robinson because she has dyslexia. She would sometimes cry in frustration when she tried to read.

From kindergarten through third grade, Ella attended North Landing Elementary School, where her mother said she had some excellent teachers. Ella still speaks highly of third-grade instructor Michael Brown more than a year after she finished his class.

But there weren’t enough instructors at North Landing who knew how to work well with Ella, and division officials didn’t always respond to her concerns, Ilinka Robinson said.

“It was just frustrating,” said Robinson, who eventually enrolled her daughter in a private school.

More than a quarter of parents of children with special needs who attend school in Virginia Beach said that they were dissatisfied with the division’s services, according to a survey conducted as part of an independent audit last year.

What's Behind The Soaring Cost of Higher Education in Virginia?
Radio IQ (WVTF)
August 23, 2017

It’s back to school time. So hold onto your wallets because since the recession, the cost of tuition has more than doubled at Virginia Commonwealth University and the College of William and Mary. Statistics compiled by the Commonwealth Institute show even Northern Virginia Community College has increased its tuition by 84% since 2008. Frank Shafroth is a professor at George Mason University, where the tuition has increased 41 percent since the recession.
Recent National Education News

Americans express support for traditional public schools in new poll, even as Trump disparages them
The Washington Post
August 29, 2017

Most American adults are weary of the intense focus on academics in public schools today, according to a new national survey, and want students to get more vocational and career training as well as mental, physical and dental services on campus. Even so, a majority of public school parents give higher grades — A’s and B’s — to the traditional public schools in their neighborhoods than they have in years.

A majority of Americans polled also said they oppose programs that use public money for private and religious school education, policies that are supported by President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. And a majority said they do not think that standardized test scores — which have been used for more than a dozen years as the most important factor in evaluating schools — are a valid reflection of school quality.
What does the public think about school accountability options?

In July we reviewed some of the changes being produced by implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Virginia's adjustment of the basis for accrediting public schools.  As we noted, under recently passed regulations, accreditation in Virginia will now include metrics other than standardized test performance, including "outcomes such as student growth, achievement gaps, dropout rates, and chronic absenteeism." 

In July we also fielded several related questions as part of the Summer Public Policy Poll, conducted by the Office for Public Policy Outreach here at the Wilder School's Center for Public Policy.  One question asked whether the public thought student improvement or performance on standardized tests was a better measure of school success.  A second asked whether schools should receive credit in accreditation results for students who successfully obtain a vocational or technical credential while in high school, but fail to pass standardized tests.  See the Poll Update below for the results or check out the full range of poll questions here.

We'll be back in September with a deeper look at how school systems across the state did on SOL standardized tests.  Until then, best wishes for these first weeks of the school year (we know some of you are already a few weeks in and others are waiting on the famous Labor Day weekend - for a map of who was who in 2015-16 across the state, see below for a map from VDOE.)  


Poll Spotlight - Public Opinion on Accountability

Within the significant and ongoing debate about the use and number of standardized tests to rate public schools, the definition of how to measure student achievement has become especially relevant.

A majority of Virginians, 61 percent, thought that when rating public schools, there should be more emphasis on how much students improve overall, compared to 33 percent who thought more emphasis should be placed on how many students reach a particular level of proficiency.

Regional differences exist with respondents from the West region (at 69 percent) being more likely to say emphasis should be placed on overall improvement and respondents in the South Central region (at 41 percent) being more likely to say emphasis should be placed on reaching a particular level of proficiency. Women (65 percent) were more likely to think emphasis should be placed on overall improvement than men (56 percent). Meanwhile, respondents ages 45 to 64 were more likely to think emphasis should be placed on reaching a particular level of proficiency with 41 percent, compared to 31 percent of those ages 35-44, 29 percent of those who ages 18-34, and 27 percent of those 65 and older.

Additionally, respondents were asked when schools should receive credit towards accreditation. A slim majority, 55 percent, thought that schools should get credit for students who earn credentials in technical and vocational programs even if they don’t pass state standardized tests, while 40 percent thought credit should only be received for students who pass standardized tests in basic subjects.

Younger respondents were more likely to think vocational and technical credentials should count towards accreditation, with 65 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds providing that answer. Fifty-four percent of those ages 35 to 44 and 44 percent of those 65 or older thought the same.

Respondents who have worked for the public school system were also more likely to think that schools should receive credit for student vocational and technical credentials. Sixty-six percent of school employees or retirees chose that option, while by comparison, 53 percent of those who have never worked for the public school system did. Democrats were also more likely to think vocational and technical credentials should count in accreditation, at 61 percent. Half of Republicans (50 percent) and 55 percent of independents felt the same.

A copy of the full results of the 2017 Summer Commonwealth Education Poll (part of the Wilder School's Public Policy Poll conducted by the Office of Public Policy Outreach) is available at