New standards of quality possible

Published 10:10 am Thursday, October 31, 2019

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The Virginia Board of Education last week prescribed new Standards of Quality (SOQ) for the commonwealth’s public schools. The SOQ describes the foundational instructional programs and support services all schools must provide and drives approximately 85% of state funding for local school divisions.

Charlotte County Public School Superintendent Robbie Mason feels that these new standards may be demanding for some small school divisions to meet  but that CCPS is looking to the future in preparation for these standards.

“The addition of several key positions to the Standards of Quality is certainly encouraging in that the importance of these positions is being recognized,” said Mason. “The problem, however, is that mandates for staff to student ratios are created by these SOQ’s, which are very difficult for small school divisions to meet in terms of funding and staffing.

Proposed standards include:

  • Increasing state funding for reading specialists and moving support for reading specialists from the annual Appropriation Act into the SOQ
  • Establishing a new teacher leader program and expanding the commonwealth’s existing teacher mentor program to provide additional compensation and time within the instructional day for teachers designated as leaders and mentors
  • Amending staffing requirements for English learner teachers to the base distribution of positions on the English proficiency level of students in each school division
  • Providing state funding for state-level and regional work-based learning coordinators to establish partnerships between school divisions and local businesses and employers
  • Creating a statewide principal mentorship program to strengthen school leadership and support teacher retention and student achievement
  • Providing state support for one full-time school counselor for every 250 students
  • Requiring a full-time principal in every elementary school
  • Requiring a full-time assistant principal for every 400 students
  • Setting specific staffing ratios in the SOQ for school nurses, social workers, and school psychologists

Mason says one recommendation, in particular, is asking for a ratio of 250 to 1 for students to counselors. “This type of support for students is certainly needed, but there is a shortage of school counselor candidates who meet state licensure requirements, and the additional funding needed for these positions is not available,” he said. “In essence, many of these requirements will become unfunded mandates.”

According to Mason, CCPS hired an additional elementary school counselor this year in anticipation of these new requirements and student need and feels that the school system is in good shape.

Mason further says qualified school counselors are challenging to find, and with need increasing, they will be even harder to find.

The newly prescribed Standards of Quality and legislation necessary to enact the new standards will be presented at the 2020 General Assembly.