New Virginia education superintendent advocated for less testing

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left, introduces Steve Staples as the Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction during a news conference at the state Capitol in Richmond. (Steve Helber/AP)

The man that Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe tapped to be the state’s new superintendent of public instruction has been a vocal advocate for reducing the amount of testing required of students as well as creating a new accountability system for teachers and schools.

Steve Staples, a former superintendent of York County schools and faculty member at the College of William & Mary, has been serving as executive director of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents. In that position, has has in the past year led a campaign to get school boards around the state to approve a resolution that spelled out ways to reform the current test-based accountability system in Virginia.

The resolutions, passed by dozens of school boards, asked state officials to “create a new accountability system” that “encompasses balanced assessments, reflects greater validity, uses more cost efficient sampling techniques and other external evaluation arrangements, allows for expedited test retakes, and more accurately reflects what students know.”

Last November, he told me: “We think the resolution is simply a tangible means for many to express what they have been feeling and saying for some time: we need reform to the system now. As the numbers continue to grow, that message is reinforced to policy makers each day.”

The General Assembly, recognizing that students were being over-tested,  has moved this year to cut down the number of mandated Standards of Learning exams students must take during their K-12 education career, but Staples supports a revamping of the entire accountability system that used test scores to evaluate schools. The previous governor, Bob McDonnell, has pushed the legislature to pass an accountability scheme that assigned A-F grades to schools largely based on test scores, but that is being reconsidered.

During the announcement of his new appointment Monday, Staples said, according to a news release:

“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. It’s time to review the two decades old accountability system to better align it with the needs of the 21st Century, and we need to encourage our schools to innovate and meet the changing expectations of workplace and society. I am ready to hit the ground running to tackle the challenges Virginia’s education system faces and ensure every Virginia student has access to quality public education.”

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.



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Valerie Strauss · March 31, 2014

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