RICHMOND, VA – In remarks yesterday at the VOICE State Election Forum, 2017 Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie outlined his vision to improve Virginia’s education system and his plan to close the achievement gap.
ED GILLESPIE: The achievement gap has to be closed. And if you are – for an example – if you are an African American child in fourth grade in the Commonwealth of Virginia, your average math test score is about half of what the average white student, average white student’s test score is on the NAEP scores. If you are an African American eighth grade child your reading scores are about a third of what the average white student’s are. We have got to close that gap. We have got to close the gap for schools in poor areas. And if you believe as I do that the proper role of government is not to guarantee equality of outcome for everyone, but to guarantee equality of opportunity for everyone, then you have to fight with every fiber in your being to make sure that every child in Virginia has access to a good, safe, quality public school and I will do that. And we will close that gap, Mike. The goal again I put forward is to cut that gap in half over the course of a ten year period. Now, that gap is reflection of measurements and standards, and I’m open to and believe we need to take a fresh look at standards of learning and our tests. Are we testing the right things at the right times? I’m very open to bringing together people – and I’ve called for this – to evaluate our testing and how we assess our standards in the Commonwealth of Virginia. And we shouldn’t just be assessing relative to everyone in fourth grade in eighth grade, but also how are the gains in different schools being made, because not all schools start at the same place and their student bodies don’t start at the same place. We also ought to be measuring progress as well as relative to school to school to school. We need to be measuring progress within those schools, and I think that’s important for us to do, but I would not abandon the idea of having standardized tests and having that accountability. I don’t think we should be moving the bars, and I don’t think we should engage in what my former boss, the former President of the United States George W. Bush once called the ‘soft bigotry of low expectations.’ I think we can’t close the gap if we don’t know what the gap is, and I do think that it’s important that we maintain these. Part of that is creating teachers, you just mentioned teachers, so one of the things that I want to do is increase teacher compensation. I do want to also have career ladders for teachers. One of the things that we have right now is for teachers to progress and have financial incentives, too often the incentive is for them to leave teaching and go into administration, and I would like to address that with career ladders, where they can continue to be effective, good teachers, improve their craft and stay in the classroom, and I would have a teachers’ council of teachers all across the Commonwealth, who would advise me and my Secretary of Education directly. I think teachers are the key to improving schools, improving accreditation. We have 8,9 schools in the Commonwealth that don’t have accreditation right now. We’ve got to increase that, and teachers are critical to it. I want to give teachers more flexibility in the process as well. I would also in order to help close that achievement gap, we’ve got to get teachers in some of those hard to staff schools and one of the ways I propose doing that is through student loan forgiveness for teachers as well as working more closely with Teach for America for teachers in those hard to staff schools.
Gillespie’s remarks follow a scathing Sunday editorial from The Washington Post, in which Democratic nominee Ralph Northam proposed students of different backgrounds and regions should be given different assessments.
From The Post:
“Mr. Northam claimed to believe in accountability but was utterly unable to explain what he means by the word. The state’s Standards of Learning (SOL), which establish minimum expectations for what students should know and be able to do, aren’t working, he said, and should be tossed out. What would replace them? Astonishingly, after almost four years as lieutenant governor and a month away from the election, Mr. Northam had no answer. Particularly concerning was Mr. Northam’s view that because children are diverse, “coming from different backgrounds and different regions,” he’s “not sure that it’s fair” to give them all the same test; they shouldn’t be penalized, he said, for the environment they come from. The suggestion that some students should be required to pass one type of assessment, while others are given a different (presumably more rigorous) one, is disconcerting. There is no question that some children come to school handicapped by circumstances not experienced by their better-advantaged peers, but children do better when there are high expectations. Creating different expectations for children does them no favors; it just allows adults to escape responsibility. To borrow a phrase from the history we revisited with Mr. Northam, it is the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”Once again, schools and the grown-ups who work in them will be excused and applauded as they graduate poor black students who are not prepared for work or college.”
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