What can Virginia legislators do? Use VLDS.

Let’s look at the top of the government food chain in Virginia.

The governor holds the keys to the kingdom, figuratively speaking. As the head honcho over Virginia’s government body, Bob McDonnell is the force that can and should lead an effort to improve education in Virginia. As a steward, McDonnell should stress this to members of Virginia’s General Assembly. As a political figure, it’s just the right thing to do.

Low and behold! Bob McDonnell recently launched an initiative in early January called ALL STUDENTS which aims to educate all K-12 students in Virginia with a high-quality education regardless of zip code. It’s a shame this premise isn’t a baseline already, but I digress.

McDonnell is asking for policy ideas to improve and better equip Virginia’s K-12 education system. As a Virginia resident, the idea of being able to post ideas and the governor reading them is so idealistic and democratic. But, I am also a skeptic. It would be even better if the governor’s office had a public tracking system for the submissions. The ultimate gesture would be to let the public vote on the suggestions. Or, maybe I am too idealistic about how government should really work?

To prevent my suggestions from being lost in online submission oblivion (or from an assistant throwing them out before they reach McDonnell’s desk), here is how Virginia legislators can make a difference in our state’s education system:

1. Support the Virginia Longitudinal Data System (VLDS). It launches this summer.

2. Create a task force to visit under-performing schools in the Commonwealth and identify why they are not up to par. Make sure the task force is diverse. Yes, you can fill an EEO quota here.

3. Compare the under-performing schools to the top performing schools.

4. Cross-check the findings to information in VLDS. This is a hunch, but I bet certain zip codes in the state have a lot to do with an abundance or lack of resources.

5. Close the gaps.

6. Publish the information for Virginians to read. Make sure it is in plain, everyday, Joe Schmoe language.

7. Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

The video below is about ALL STUDENTS. While it is a nice package and talks about how much reform is needed, it doesn’t really highlight any solutions. I guess that’s where Virginians come in. I hope the governor’s office updates this video before 2013 ends to showcase what he and his regime plan on doing about education in Virginia. 

The Future of Parenting and Education — Look at the Data

Photo credit: Gigaom.com

I stumbled across a Denver Post article about getting parents involved in schools and it appealed to me as a parent of a rising kindergartner. Admittedly, I didn’t pay close attention to the condition of schools until I enrolled my child at a private school in 2012. Yes, my husband and I would rather pay for our daughter’s education than to subject her to the poor state of the public schools in our area. Sure, we could’ve searched high and low for a school suitable enough to compliment the lessons we’re teaching her at home and then go through the financial effort to move close to these schools; but, why must we uproot the life we’ve established so far when the quality of schools in the U.S. should be top-notch anyway?

Last year, Education Week published an annual U.S. educational report card called Quality Counts 2011 and our schools ranked as average – with a grade of C – and a majority of the states received a D or less. Surprisingly Virginia, where I live, received a B-, but that still doesn’t discount the fact that schools in my neighborhood look like they were built using leftover supplies from the newer school facilities built in the city possibly over the last forty years. If the outside is crumbling, I could only imagine what the inside looks like.

If you are a parent, or if you plan on having children, you soon will have more to rely on than just the physical makeup of schools and report cards published by private institutions to judge whether or not a school you have in mind is the right place for your precious gems to spend their weekdays. According to the Denver Post article, a new tool to measure the quality of parent-school relationships is starting to make its way into several school districts. The purpose is to measure family and community engagement and to collect data that can determine what parents think about their school’s effectiveness.

Think about it, you probably trust word of mouth recommendations more than anything. How convenient would it be to see how schools fare based on what other parents in your area are saying about them? You could attempt to interview every parent where you live, but who realistically has time for that?

Launching soon is the Virginia Longitudinal Data System (VLDS), one of the few data systems in the nation that tracks and connects education demographics from grades K-12 and in-state colleges to the workforce in Virginia. Imagine reading a report that can show the probability of your child landing that coveted engineering or medical job (or whatever coveted job you dream of for your child). Wouldn’t you read it?