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. 

Planning for the Future

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Photo Credit: Fastcoexist.com

As someone who has gone through the college process more than once (undergraduate and now graduate), I can tell you that there is a lot of research that goes into picking the right school. My generation comes from the baby boomers, a lot of our parents may have little to no college experience because it was not required of them. As society has changed through the years, a college education is not only expected but required.

In the state of Virginia, there are fifteen public colleges or universities. When you are 17-years-old and are excited about starting a new chapter in your life and being on your own for the first time –  how much money you will be making after college is not the first thought that comes to mind. Being that young, the trials of adulthood have not set in yet. The normal college student has their parents pay for school, they are on a scholarship or they take out loans (which they do not have to see until they are six months out of college). The gravity of your career choice and the debt looming over your head does not set in (at least for me, it didn’t) until the last semester of undergrad. The urgency to find a job in an unstable economy made the anxiety even worse. Luckily I chose a career that is versatile, but not everyone knows exactly what he or she wants to do. Many people go to college study in a specific field and 60 percent cannot find a fulltime job in their field after graduation.

The Virginia Longitudinal Data System (VLDS) is working to obtain information about students throughout their lifetime within the state in which they reside. This information will help launch demographic insight to the best schools within the state. This has created some fear among the school systems,which if certain information is released students will not want to apply to their schools. Instead of fear, this should provide a challenge to better their education system and provide the best so that their students can receive the best.

Already, VLDS has released reports stating future earnings of Virginia college/university graduates. This information may help many upcoming college students narrow their focus when looking at universities. VLDS is planning on narrowing the focus even more by obtaining information that lists which degrees make the most money and from which college/university. This information then gets complied into reports that list the average income 18 months out of school and then five years out of school. Colleges/Universities may be hesitant about this information being released because application rates may drop but this would provide a better picture for applicants who are looking for make the smartest decision for their future.

The number of graduates who come out of college with more the $24k in debt is a startling 59 percent. This short video explains the future of college graduates with the current economic state and what the future may hold.

This information could be key to upcoming college students who are looking to make smarter decisions. These reports were not easily accessible before and if all of this information is in one place it could mean a more stability and a better financial future for college graduates.