Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) announced Monday that Steve Staples, a veteran school district leader and vocal advocate for testing reform, will become Virginia’s next superintendent of instruction.
Staples most recently served as executive director of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, where he represented more than 130 district leaders and led an effort to rally state educators around a campaign for a revamped testing program.
More than 60 school boards passed resolutions, similar to one promoted by Staples’s organization, that encouraged the legislature to consider a testing system that “more accurately reflects” what students know and can do.
The General Assembly approved a bill this year that reduces the number of Standards of Learning (SOL) tests that Virginia students have to take from 22 to 17 and directs localities to explore alternative kinds of tests.
McAuliffe said in a statement Monday that Staples has what it takes “to drive Virginia’s public education system into the future.”
Virginia is one of only a few states that did not adopt a national approach to academic standards and testing known as the Common Core, but it has not the escaped what has become a national backlash to the test-based accountability system that has transformed schools since the federal No Child Left Behind law was approved.
“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,” Staples said in a statement.
Staples will succeed Superintendent Pat Wright, who announced her retirement in March after nearly 30 years with the Education Department and six years in the top education job.
Wright was instrumental in building Virginia’s SOL program, which was one of the nation’s first and has been widely regarded as the backbone for many of the state’s educational successes.
During the two years that Staples led the Virginia association, he visited almost every superintendent in the state to understand their challenges.
Before that, he served on the faculty at the College of William and Mary’s School of Education. He was also the superintendent of York County schools, a district of 13,000 students, for 16 years. He received his bachelor and master’s degrees at William and Mary and his PhD from Virginia Tech.