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Governor Northam announces $2 billion public-private broadband investment

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RICHMOND—Governor Northam announced that Virginia has received a record number of local and private sector applications to match state broadband investments, putting the Commonwealth on track to become one of the first states to achieve universal broadband access by 2024. Virginia anticipates more than $2 billion in total broadband funding, thanks to local and private-sector matching funds that go beyond the $874 million in state appropriations since the Governor took office in 2018.

“Broadband is as critical today as electricity was in the last century,” said Governor Northam. “Making sure more Virginians can get access to it has been a priority since I took office, and the pandemic pushed us all to move even faster. Virginia is now on track to achieve universal broadband by 2024, which means more connections, more investments, easier online learning, and expanded telehealth options, especially in rural Virginia.”

The Virginia Telecommunication Initiative is the Commonwealth’s broadband program. It was started in 2017 to fund public-private partnerships to extend broadband service to areas unserved by an internet service provider. When the most recent application round closed last month, the program received 57 applications from 84 localities, requesting $943 million to connect more than 250,000 Virginia homes and businesses. These applications leverage $1.15 billion in private and local matching funds. The Department of Housing and Community Development is reviewing applications and expects to award the funds by the end of the year.

Virginia has taken dramatic steps on broadband since Governor Northam took office in 2018, as Virginia’s first rural Governor in a generation. He set out a clear goal: achieve universal access to broadband within 10 years. The goal was bold, as Virginia’s broadband program was investing just $4 million a year and 660,000 Virginians did not have access to high-speed internet.

Since then, Governor Northam and the General Assembly have awarded $124 million in grants to connect more than 140,000 homes, businesses, and community organizations. The Virginia Telecommunication Initiative has awarded 39 projects in 41 different counties, supported by over $94 million in matching private and local funds. Along with private investment and federal broadband grants, the Commonwealth has reduced the digital divide by 65 percent. Plans accelerated further in August, when Governor Northam and the General Assembly allocated $700 million in American Rescue Plan funding to broadband, moving the original goal for achieving universal access to 2024.

“Ensuring that rural Virginians have access to broadband is the number one way we can make sure they have equal access to the economic, educational, and health opportunities that broadband provides,” said Broadband Advisory Council Vice-Chair Delegate Roslyn Tyler. “No Virginian should be left behind. Thanks to Governor Northam’s commitment to getting universal broadband done, we’re seeing record levels of public and private sector matching funds, and we’ll have this critical infrastructure available to all Virginians more quickly than we imagined.”

“Broadband a vital resource for communities across the Commonwealth,” said Broadband Advisory Council Chair Senator Jennifer Boysko. “Broadband access allows our citizens to connect to their workplaces, schools, and doctors and broadens their opportunities and choices about where to live and work. The Northam administration’s investment in broadband, paired with these matching funds, will get universal broadband access to Virginians in record time.”

The overwhelming response to this year’s Virginia Telecommunication Initiative grant round demonstrates that Virginia has built an innovative and successful model for bridging the digital divide.

 

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Virginia Tackles Record-High Student Absenteeism

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Governor Youngkin introduced Chronic Absenteeism Task Force as part of a broader initiative.

As the Commonwealth of Virginia faces alarming student absenteeism rates, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced the creation of the Chronic Absenteeism Task Force, an essential component of the comprehensive ALL IN VA initiative. This ambitious program seeks to bolster learning recovery, focusing on Attendance, Literacy, and Learning.

A striking outcome of the extended school closures due to the pandemic is the near doubling of chronic absenteeism rates in Virginia classrooms. This concerning trend has sparked the formation of the task force, which will equip school divisions with resources and action plans to tackle these unprecedented absenteeism rates.

Governor Youngkin remarked on the residual effects of the pandemic, “Children must be in school to have any chance of recovering from the persistent learning loss… Our new Chronic Absenteeism Task Force was designed to get kids back in the classroom and back on track now.”

Secretary of Education Aimee Rogstad Guidera shared alarming statistics, highlighting that “nearly one in five students in Virginia are missing more than 10% of the school year.” She added that there’s a clear correlation between chronic absenteeism and academic performance, with those absent regularly trailing by 25% in math and 18% in reading.

Virginia’s Department of Education has been proactive, recently concluding a two-week listening tour across all eight Superintendent Regions. The aim was to share details of the ALL IN VA plan with educational leaders.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Coons stressed the significance of regular school attendance, noting the clear message from superintendents: “Kids need to be in school.”

The Task Force will convene bi-weekly, delving into the root causes of chronic absenteeism, such as food scarcity, health and safety concerns, and transportation barriers. An essential aspect of their strategy is parental responsibility, focusing on tailored actions that address each school division’s primary obstacles to reducing absenteeism.

Following their sessions, practical solutions will be shared widely, ensuring immediate implementation and raising public awareness. Dr. Keith Perrigan, a prominent member of the task force, expressed his commitment to developing strategies that will provide ongoing support to families and students.

However, the initiative doesn’t stop at attendance. The ALL IN VA plan also encompasses strategies for accelerating literacy through Grade 8 and investing in intensive statewide tutoring initiatives. This holistic approach ensures that once students are back in classrooms, they receive the essential academic support they need.

The repercussions of the pandemic on Virginia’s education system are evident, but Governor Youngkin’s administration is determined to navigate this challenge head-on. Through the ALL IN VA initiative, and specifically the Chronic Absenteeism Task Force, the Commonwealth seeks to ensure students not only return to school but also regain lost academic ground.

Click here to read Governor Youngkin’s ALL IN VA plan. 

Click here to access the Department’s ALL IN tutoring and resource page. 

Click here to read Virginia’s 2022-2023 Standard of Learning scores. 

Click here to view the ALL IN VA 2023 Annual Standards of Learning Assessment Rates Presentation. 

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Federal Shutdown Could Halt Paychecks for 129,400 Active-Duty Military Members in Virginia

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The White House is warning that a partial government shutdown would mean 1.3 million active-duty armed services members must keep working without receiving paychecks, and hundreds of thousands of Pentagon employees would face furloughs.

According to September 2022 figures, numerous states are home to large numbers of troops who would work without pay until after the shutdown, including Virginia with 129,400; North Carolina with 95,900; Florida with 66,900; Georgia with 63,800; and Washington with 62,100.

“Nobody joins the military to get rich. You join because you love your country. You want to serve, and you’re willing to do it at some risk to yourself. But you have every expectation that the government is going to be able to pay a decent wage and take care of your family,” John Kirby, spokesperson for the Biden administration’s National Security Council, said on a call with reporters Tuesday.

“When (service members) don’t get their paychecks, electrical bills, water bills, rent, mortgage, grocery bills, all that stacks up to the great detriment of these young men and women,” he continued. “So in total, more than 1.3 million could actually face real financial hardship as they continue to show up to defend the rest of us.”

Service members would be paid retroactively upon the end of a shutdown, which could last hours, days, or weeks.

Virginia Rep. Jen Kiggans, R-Virginia Beach, last week introduced legislation that would ensure pay from service members, including members of the Coast Guard, is uninterrupted.  However, neither chamber has taken action on the bill yet.

Government shutdown Saturday

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been unable to unify his party members on full-year government spending bills or even a short-term stopgap measure that would avoid a shutdown, which would occur Saturday night without action by Congress.

Far-right members of the conference want to further cut nondefense spending beyond an agreement that McCarthy reached with President Joe Biden, who signed it into law. Some also want to sever any Ukraine funding from a government funding deal.

The fiscal year ends Saturday, and McCarthy has only a slim margin of votes he can afford to lose. Additionally, any spending bills or short-term deals to avoid a funding lapse would need to be bipartisan enough to appeal to the Democrat-led Senate.

If no deal is reached before the year’s fiscal deadline, other parts under the Defense Department’s massive scope will be affected, the administration also warned.

Kirby said the Pentagon’s military recruitment programs, as well as procurement and management of existing defense contracts, will be disrupted if the department’s civilian employees are furloughed.

“All of this would prove disruptive to our national security and our efforts to address the critical needs of the American people. And again, the reason is these extreme House Republicans are basically turning their backs on a bipartisan budget deal that they worked out with the president, that two-thirds of them voted for just a few months ago,” he said.

The department’s civilian workforce totals 804,422, and roughly 430,000 could face furloughs, according to the Pentagon on Tuesday.

McCarthy’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the possibility of troops working without pay or Pentagon furloughs.

Mercury Editor Sarah Vogelsong contributed to this story.

 

by Ashley Murray, Virginia Mercury



Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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2023 Elections Bring New Scrutiny of Virginia’s ‘Sore Loser’ Rule

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Virginia’s so-called “sore loser” law is supposed to ensure that when a candidate is defeated in a Republican or Democratic primary, they can’t drop their party affiliation and appear on the general election ballot next to the person who beat them.

As the state’s closely watched election season, which will determine control of all 140 seats in the General Assembly, ramps up, the letter and spirit of that law are being tested. A handful of unsuccessful primary candidates have tried to keep their campaigns alive after defeat while attacking their own parties for allegedly corrupting the process.

Makya Little, a Northern Virginia House of Delegates candidate who narrowly lost a Democratic primary in June, went as far as filing a lawsuit that seeks to have her primary loss overturned. The suit, which has not yet been resolved in Richmond City Circuit Court, also seeks to have Little’s name appear on ballots as an independent candidate despite the fact that she, like all primary candidates, signed a form acknowledging her name couldn’t be on the ballot if she lost her primary.

In occasionally blunt language, attorneys representing state election officials argued Little’s case should be thrown out because she and her supporters are “trying to convert their disappointment into a lawsuit.”

“This case is about an attempt by a defeated politician to overturn the results of an election,” wrote the state’s attorneys.

The state is also seeking to add Rozia Henson — the Democrat who defeated Little in the primary by just 49 votes — as a party to the lawsuit, saying the case has ramifications for him as the primary winner. Henson is the only candidate on the ballot in the heavily Democratic 19th House District, made up of parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties.

In an interview, Little acknowledged her attempts to appear on the ballot failed since the ballots were printed weeks ago, and early voting got underway last Friday. However, she said she intends to continue the lawsuit and keep arguing the state needs a better mechanism to resolve disputes over whether primaries were conducted fairly. Little now identifies as an independent but said she still supports many Democratic priorities.

“It’s disappointing that the party of inclusion can be so exclusionary,” Little said. “And what they call vetting is actually gatekeeping.”

Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, one of Virginia’s most prominent purveyors of unfounded election fraud claims, explored the idea of running a write-in campaign after losing a suburban Richmond primary battle against former state Sen. Glen Sturtevant. Chase told supporters in a Sept. 13 email she was dropping that plan because write-in campaigns involve “far too much work with little return.” She also floated the possibility of a statewide campaign next year without identifying a specific office.

In a more politically significant development, Matt Strickland, an anti-establishment conservative who sought the GOP nomination in a Fredericksburg-area Virginia Senate district, is encouraging supporters to write his name on their November ballots despite losing a June primary to Del. Tara Durant, R-Fredericksburg.

Durant is facing Democrat Joel Griffin and independent Monica Gary in a battleground district being heavily contested by both parties, and the prospect of Strickland drawing conservative votes away from Durant adds another complication for Republicans hoping to win full control of the legislature. Democrats currently have a 22-18 majority in the Senate.

Strickland did not respond to an emailed request for comment Tuesday. He discussed the write-in effort at length in a recent interview on the conservative John Fredericks Radio Show. When Fredericks pressed him for a response to accusations he’s jeopardizing Republicans’ chances in the district, Strickland said, “If a Democrat wins, so be it.”

“The only way that the Republican Party will change is we withhold our vote from them for winning these primaries via corruption,” said Strickland, who also accused Gov. Glenn Youngkin of supporting a “globalist agenda.” Youngkin endorsed Durant in the primary.

Republicans have downplayed Strickland’s impact on the race.

“I just don’t think there’s a whole lot of wind beneath their sails, so to speak,” Durant said Tuesday. “You take everything seriously, but you’ve got to focus on those who are on the ballot.”

Griffin, the Democrat who stands to benefit from a split GOP vote, took a different view of Strickland’s role as a potential spoiler.


“We’ve seen a number of voters who are frustrated with the lack of performance from Tara,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of people in the region that do support him.”

Virginia’s sore loser law only prohibits candidates from appearing on the ballot after losing a primary, but candidates can theoretically win if they can educate enough supporters about the need to look past the official list of candidates, fill in the write-in box, and spell the name (mostly) correctly. State Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, pulled off that feat in 2019 after paperwork errors left him off the ballot in his strongly Republican district, but he received a $500,000 donation from a Republican donor to fund the extraordinary outreach effort.

In court filings portraying Little’s lawsuit as legally meritless, attorneys for the state emphasized that Little could technically still win as a write-in candidate under Virginia’s system.

The sore loser law Little is targeting serves a valid democratic purpose, the state argued, by preventing party infighting, minimizing voter confusion, and ensuring that primary elections don’t become “meaningless.” Little’s allegations that various Democratic officials tilted the primary against her, the state’s filing contends, have nothing to do with official election functions and the laws that govern them.

“In a nutshell, plaintiffs complain that some Democrats did not treat Ms. Little fairly,” the state’s filing says. “But such is the stuff of politics. Some of it may not be nice, but the plaintiff fails to show why any of it is illegal.”

Little has been claimed. Democratic leaders in Prince William and Fairfax counties manipulated the primary process by allowing party officials to be involved with other candidates’ campaigns, deleting her social media posts from party pages, canceling a “bilingual voter drive,” and steering endorsements to her opponent.

Little, who says she’s representing herself in the lawsuit because no lawyers would take the case, insisted her post-primary efforts are about standing up for the voters in her district.

“It’s bigger than just my campaign. It’s bigger than just this one race. It’s bigger than just this one election cycle,” she said. “This has become a pattern and practice of the parties to control who has access to the ballot.”

The 2023 primary season has also drawn attention to a possible loophole in the sore loser law.

In a local race in Roanoke County, a candidate dropped out of a Republican contest just days before the June 20 primaries but then filed to run as an independent. That candidate, Tom McCracken, also abandoned his independent run last month, according to WDBJ7.

In a Sept. 14 advisory opinion on a hypothetical scenario that matches what happened in Roanoke County, Attorney General Jason Miyares said that, as written, the law allows primary candidates to avoid triggering the sore loser restriction by dropping out of a primary at the last minute. Even if it occurs after voting has started with the candidate’s name printed on primary ballots, a formal withdrawal from the race doesn’t count as being “defeated” in the primary, Miyares wrote.

Theoretically, Miyares opined, a primary candidate could evade the sore loser law by dropping out “at any point prior to the closing of the polls on the day of the primary election.”

Staff reporter Charlie Paullin contributed to this report.

 

by Graham Moomaw, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Virginia Governor, Educators Recognize Urgent Need for AI Policy

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RICHMOND, Va. — Gov. Glenn Youngkin recently issued an executive directive that emphasized the looming impact of artificial intelligence, though higher education is only beginning to grapple with how to utilize AI.

Youngkin’s order is to ensure AI is used responsibly, ethically, and transparently in state government, job creation, and education.

A survey released earlier this year found that 60% of college students polled have not been taught how to use AI tools ethically or responsibly by higher education instructors. The same percentage of students also think AI tools will become the new normal, according to the BestColleges survey.

A U.S. Department of Education policy report published in May stated support for using AI to improve teaching and learning. The department stated the need to develop clear policy for AI use and that the anticipated risks and unintended consequences must be addressed.

ChatGPT was released to the public less than a year ago. The chatbot uses language models to mimic human writing and dialogue. It can respond to questions and generate various written content, including emails, prompts, and articles. The chatbot is a form of generative AI that can also create images, videos, songs, and code.

Educators at every level are now faced with how to appropriately address the new technology.

Like many universities, Virginia Commonwealth University faculty and staff continue to discuss AI’s role and how to guide professors moving forward, according to Mangala Subramaniam, the university’s senior vice provost of faculty affairs.

VCU will solicit feedback from faculty on Sept. 26 to learn how AI has impacted their classrooms. The university will create an advisory council of faculty who are familiar with AI and who can provide updated guidance for professors.

Faculty at VCU are either fearful of the technology or they’re willing to experiment with it, according to Subramaniam.

The university held two forums earlier this year focused on the potential challenges and opportunities of AI, including ChatGPT. Professors have the freedom to decide if they want to use AI in their classroom and are advised to make expectations clear in the syllabus about its use, according to Subramaniam.

Educators may face problems with AI, including plagiarism and how to detect if a student uses AI. Students may face uncertainty about acceptable and allowed use. VCU describes AI plagiarism and copyright as a “difficult topic” and advises that it should be made clear to students they will be punished if they submit AI-generated work as original content, according to the VCU learning tool guide.

Educators and businesses need clear ways to detect AI-generated work, which has driven an industry response.

The software Turnitin allows educators to detect originality and plagiarism. It can now detect 97% of ChatGPT and GPT3 writing, according to its website.

VerifiedHuman is a relatively new company that seeks to differentiate human-made media from AI-generated media, according to its founder, Micah Voraritskul.

VerifiedHuman is conducting a study where the company will collect a thousand writing samples from college and high school students across the globe to see what is written by a human, written by AI, or put through an AI scrubber, according to Voraritskul. A scrubber is intended to modify AI-generated text and make it appear more human.

“I think what we’re trying to do is help institutions of higher learning have some kind of policy,” Voraritskul said.


Teachers are nervous about AI because their job is to assess student learning, he said.

“It’s hard to assess student learning … if 90% of assessment is done in writing and you can’t determine whether or not the student wrote that, you don’t know what the student has actually learned,” Voraritskul said.

Student and faculty reaction to AI use depends on the assignment, the outcome, and the standards of learning. Arielle Andrews is a VCU interdisciplinary studies student with a focus on media studies, sociology, and creative writing. She is a contributing writer for the independent student newspaper, The Commonwealth Times.

“I think the best thing to do for students is instead of teaching them to fear, or like have a disdain for AI, is to more teach them how to work alongside it and use it ethically,” Andrews said.

AI can be a beneficial tool and better used for things that are not “super impactful to the learning process,” Andrews said.

“If an assignment can easily be completed by AI, then it’s not testing those human traits of writing that it should,” Andrews said.

Voraritskul is “pro AI.” The tools can help students do better work in the future, he said. However, he sees the potential danger of AI’s influence on critical thinking and understanding difficult concepts.

“When teachers are asking students to figure hard things out, they want them to use their brains,” Voraritskul said. “They want them to exercise their brain muscle so they can figure out what’s going on in this problem.”

Although the BestColleges survey found students were concerned about AI’s impact on their education, more students were concerned about the impact of AI on society at large.

Voraritskul recalled that math teachers all over the world were concerned students would not learn how to add or subtract when Texas Instruments mass-produced the first affordable calculators.

“Well, that wasn’t true,” Voraritskul said. “And what are you going to do? Stop the calculator? Stop the computer? Stop the internet? Stop AI? No, you can’t. You have to adjust.”

 

By Nicole Staab
Capital News Service


Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.

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Va. Department of Education Begins Developing New Accountability System

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Following criticism by Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration, Virginia’s Department of Education will begin to develop a new system for tracking public schools’ and students’ performance.

A June report from Virginia Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera and Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Coons to the General Assembly noted that most states have both an accreditation system, which assesses whether schools are meeting all requirements laid out in state laws and regulations, and an accountability system, which provides “timely and transparent information on student and school performance.”

President Grace Creasey listening to a presentation at the Board of Education’s business meeting on Sept. 14, 2023. (Nathaniel Cline/Virginia Mercury)

“Virginia’s current accreditation system combines these two systems into one system as a single accreditation system, limiting transparency into how schools maintain compliance and recognize student achievement independent of each other,” the report found. It went on to recommend that Virginia develop “a distinct, stand-alone accountability system” that provides information about how each K-12 school is preparing students.

Virginia’s current system focuses on accreditation and measures schools based on not only academic achievement, performance gaps, student attendance, and graduation and dropout rates but also factors like building safety, student-teacher ratios, and licensure. Schools are then labeled “accredited,” “accredited with conditions,” or not accredited.

The Virginia Department of Education has said the current system is unclear and should be revised to address recent declines in student performance in core subjects such as math and reading.

“This is an important move to show transparently how schools are growing children, how they’re meeting achievement measures, and how they’re readying kids for the future,” said Coons.

On Thursday, the Board of Education voted to direct the department to develop two different measures to track academic performance: an achievement index and an overall school rating.

The index measure would provide a picture of a school’s achievement level based on students’ performance on assessments, with different levels of performance, like basic, proficient, or advanced, receiving different weights.

Scott Brabrand, executive director of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, said Thursday the index “allows schools to count the achievement of every child, and it also allows teachers to focus on every child in their classroom, not just focusing on those on the bubble for proficiency.”

The former John B. Cary Elementary School in Richmond was renamed Lois Harrison-Jones Elementary School in 2023. (Mechelle Hankerson/Virginia Mercury)

A second or “summative” measure would provide a school rating based on nine factors that would include not only student performance but also graduation completion and dropout rates. That metric would be similar to those used in states like North Carolina and Maryland and could take the form of A-F grades, stars, or another ranking.

While the superintendent’s association is also supporting the summative measure, the Virginia School Boards Association expressed concern that it could negatively impact a school division’s ability to recruit teachers or obtain needed resources.

“Whether it is at A-F, a series of stars or descriptive labels, VSBA is concerned that unless the rating system is used to drive resources and supports students and schools in challenging environments, the label will do more harm to schools and increase the likelihood of a school not making needed strides and academic achievement,” said JoWanda Rollins-Fells, a member of the group’s board.

Board member Anne Holton, an appointee of Gov. Terry McAuliffe, said she needed more information about whether the summative measure would contribute to residential segregation before supporting the proposed accountability rating system. Some researchers have argued that poor school ratings increase the likelihood of parents moving their children to private or charter schools, leading to decreased funding a public school receives from the state.

“I think that would be an important factor for us to consider as we move forward,” Holton said.


Last fall, the previous board began reviewing the state’s current accountability system to address Virginia students’ declining scores on state and national assessments.

Since then, Youngkin, who has been vocal in his criticism of the state’s current accreditation system, has appointed three new board members. Currently, eight of its nine seats are filled with his appointees.

Board President Grace Creasey, one of Youngkin’s appointees, on Thursday, said the board had discussed accreditation and accountability for a year because of the “complexity” and “lack of transparency” of the state systems, which she said don’t effectively measure student performance.

“We’re really starting to put the skeleton of this project together in order to get to a very robust end goal, and so I’m very happy [with] the guardrails that we’ve created today to inform our work further as we move forward,” she said after the meeting.

Kimberly Bridges, an assistant professor of educational leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University, said the new approach to accountability “will be helpful to schools, teachers, leaders, students, as well as parents.”

Bridges, who served on the working group that helped craft the June recommendations, said she had hoped the board would have considered in more depth the degree to which achievement measures should prioritize proficiency or growth. The working group had urged the board to include both factors in any measures.

Creasey said growth measures may not be informative for parents, while proficiency measures would allow direct conversations about achievement between administrators, teachers, and parents.

On Thursday, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents and Virginia School Boards Association requested the board delay voting on any of the new accountability measures to give the public time to review the options.

Creasey, however, said the development process will last a year and allow public comment and stakeholder input opportunities.

“The process had to start somewhere,” she said.

An updated timeline calls for VDOE to collect data on the indicators included in the new accountability system from August 2024 to July 2025 and implement the system in August 2025. The board would vote again on the proposal next summer.

 

by Nathaniel Cline, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Virginia Welcomes the 139th Batch of State Troopers to the Frontlines

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A Fresh Wave of Protectors for the Commonwealth.

In the heart of Richmond this past Friday, the 15th of September, the Virginia State Police Academy proudly celebrated a pivotal moment. The 139th generation of Virginia State Troopers, a diverse and rigorously trained group, was handed their diplomas in a ceremony filled with pride and hope.

Colonel Gary T. Settle, the Virginia State Police Superintendent, shared his admiration and belief in this new generation, commenting, “For 91 years, the Virginia State Police has stood as a beacon of security, ensuring safety for every individual residing, working, or merely passing through the great Commonwealth of Virginia. The dedication we’ve observed from these graduates reassures us that they are more than ready to uphold the lofty standards that come with our emblem.” His words resonated with the promise that the legacy of service and dedication the State Police embodies will continue.

These fresh troopers have undergone an extensive and comprehensive training regime. Their preparation involved a grueling 1,300 hours spanning a vast array of topics. Not only were they schooled in the expected areas like constitutional law and emergency medical care, but also in more sensitive and essential subjects such as de-escalation techniques, strategies for assisting individuals experiencing mental health crises, and promoting fairness and impartiality in policing. Starting their journey on February 27th, earlier this year, these recruits were immersed in 28 weeks of academic, physical, and hands-on training, proving their dedication and resilience.

Illustrating the appeal and prestige of the Virginia State Police, the 139th Basic Session witnessed a rich tapestry of backgrounds. Recruits hailed from all across the Commonwealth and from states such as Arkansas and Texas. Furthermore, international representation was seen from places like the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Saipan. Such diversity is a testament to the universal desire to serve and protect communities.

As they transition into their roles, the week of September 18 will see these troopers disperse across Virginia to their designated duty assignments. But the learning doesn’t stop here; each trooper will undergo an additional six-week intensive with a Field Training Officer, familiarizing themselves with their new patrol regions and ensuring they’re best equipped to serve their communities.

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Humidity: 84%
Pressure: 30.22"Hg
UV index: 2
WedThuFri
82/50°F
77/57°F
77/55°F

Upcoming Events

Oct
4
Wed
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Oct 4 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
Oct
7
Sat
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 7 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work showing off their skills. Members of The Blacksmiths’ Guild of the Potomac have set up shop in the forge, located behind[...]
1:00 pm Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
Oct 7 @ 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
New Bluegrass and traditional music jam the first Saturday of each month starting Feb. 4th, from 1pm till 4pm. All levels of playing invited to attend.
Oct
8
Sun
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 8 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work showing off their skills. Members of The Blacksmiths’ Guild of the Potomac have set up shop in the forge, located behind[...]
Oct
11
Wed
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Oct 11 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
Oct
14
Sat
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 14 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work showing off their skills. Members of The Blacksmiths’ Guild of the Potomac have set up shop in the forge, located behind[...]
6:00 pm Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 14 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Discover our International Dark-Sky Park! Our evenings begin with a half-hour children’s “Junior Astronomer” program, followed by a discussion about the importance of dark skies and light conservation. Then join NASA’s Jet Propulsion[...]
Oct
15
Sun
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 15 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work showing off their skills. Members of The Blacksmiths’ Guild of the Potomac have set up shop in the forge, located behind[...]
Oct
18
Wed
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Oct 18 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
Oct
21
Sat
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 21 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work showing off their skills. Members of The Blacksmiths’ Guild of the Potomac have set up shop in the forge, located behind[...]