An A for Gov. Allen's Board
There must be a thousand reasons why Virginia's Board of Education should be satisfied with the mushy, feel-good standards by which pupils and instructors now measure their educational progress. The board should know because over the past year it has probably heard every one of those reasons, many more than once.
It is to the credit of the board, now dominated by the appointees of Gov. George Allen, that it has pushed ahead with plans to toughen those standards, the better to make schools more accountable to parents. The board has scheduled for tonight a vote on the standards; it cannot come too soon.
The latest call for delay comes from a legislative commission that is attempting to come up with its own education plan. The problem seems to be that Democrats on the commission don't agree with the board's plans; better to wait for a consensus before voting. Halifax Democrat Ted Bennett wondered aloud what difference two more weeks or a month would make. Southampton Democrat Paul Councill complained the General Assembly had been kept in the dark about the board's plans.
The only way anyone could have been in the dark was to close his eyes. The board has held some 20 hearings on its plans over the course of a year, received thousands of letters and heard the complaints or commendations of anyone who cared to offer them. The news media has given extensive coverage to the debate over its proposals. One would have had to work hard to avoid it.
It's important to remember that the board is acting on General Assembly orders. It was the Democrat-controlled Assembly, after all, that passed a law in 1992 requiring the use of student achievement results in determining a school's accreditation.
What the board votes on tonight is the culmination of a highly publicized three-step process. First the board toughened the existing standards of learning. For example, where the standards for third-graders once said, "The student will actively participate in the decision-making processes by identifying problems and suggesting possible solutions," the revised standards said, "The student will explain the term `civilization' and describe the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome, in terms of geographic features, government, agriculture, architecture, music, art, religion, sports and roles of men, women and children. …