Cuccinelli wants to update the state’s Standards of Learning tests, which reflect the base line of what students are expected to learn each year. He says the tests are too focused on rote memorization and should have a more flexible format. He would create a commission of parents, educators, business leaders and lawmakers to review and revise the tests.

He wants to give parents more opportunities to choose alternatives to their public schools, particularly if those schools are low-performing. He has proposed a “parent-trigger” process that would enable parents to petition the state to have a failing school provided with new leadership or converted to a charter school.

He proposes to expand virtual schools and expand a two-year-old program that offers voucher-like scholarships for children in poor families to attend private schools.

He has proposed a constitutional amendment that would encourage the growth of charter schools and an amendment that would enable public funding to flow to private religious schools.

He would broaden the science, technology, engineering and math curriculum in public schools and require middle and high school students to show proficiency in a second language.

Cuccinelli wants to use A to F letter grades to evaluate the state’s teacher-preparation programs and to create more paths to licensing teachers outside of colleges.

Cuccinelli says the Virginia Preschool Initiative, which provides state funding for preschool, is too limited. He has proposed using voucher-like scholarships or tax credits to help children attend private preschool programs.


McAuliffe has made reforming the Standards of Learning a key part of his platform. He hopes to orient the tests toward higher-order thinking and to give school districts more flexibility to administer them. He would convene a “blue ribbon commission” to review and recommend changes to the standards.

He supports locally approved charter schools but wants to focus investment on traditional public schools.

He has called for the state to increase funding for public schools and to improve teacher pay. He proposes to pay for the increases with money saved by accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid as part of the federal Affordable Care Act, and through dollars freed up by closing unspecified tax loopholes or credits.

He wants to promote science and technology education as early as possible in schools and to emphasize writing. He would also encourage school partnerships with colleges and employers to better prepare students for college and the workforce.

McAuliffe would create more laboratory schools for teacher-preparation programs to give teachers-in-training more hands-on learning opportunities. For teachers already on the job, he wants to find ways to improve professional development and reduce the administrative workload.

He would broaden access to the Virginia Preschool Initiative. And he hopes to offer more affordable training programs for early-childhood educators and to seek out public-private partnerships to help families take advantage of early education.