Teacher Cabinet Tasked with Solving VA's Education Problems - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Teacher Cabinet Tasked with Solving VA's Education Problems

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They're being called the "cream of the crop" - a group commissioned by Governor McDonnell to solve some of the state's K-12 education problems. It marks the first time a group composed entirely of teachers will be able to tell Virginia's leaders what changes they want made.

But the governor's teacher cabinet, established by executive order last month, has a challenging job. It is charged with submitting recommendations to improve K-12 education across the state, and only has about two months to do it.

"Teaching seems to be one of the only professions that they don't ask the teachers what to do, which is kind of a concern," said Cathy Collier, teacher cabinet vice chair.

When 25-year teaching veteran Collier heard Governor McDonnell wanted input from people like her, she jumped at the opportunity to turn the attention back to the classroom.

"Sometimes they forget we're talking about kindergarteners, or 6-year-olds, or 8-year-olds, or even 15-year-olds," said Collier.

Collier is working with lawmakers and 22 other educators from across the commonwealth to address things like helping disadvantaged students, professional development, and improving early childhood education. The approach has garnered bipartisan support from state policymakers.

"I think this is one of the best things that the governor has been able to do relative to education," said Delegate Algie Howell (D) 90th District.

"Having that teacher voice, that direct connection, has been paramount," said Javaid Siddiqi, Virginia's deputy secretary of education.

For many teachers, the biggest issues come down to testing. Collier says the teacher cabinet recommendations will likely include suggestions to reduce testing and get teachers back to teaching.

"What we're looking at is a recommendation that would take away some of the testing requirements so that we can make sure that we're getting good foundations and not just testing," said Collier.

The message mirrors similar calls from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to reform Virginia's Standards of Learning. Some disagree on the best way to make those reforms - but the newly formed teacher cabinet might be able to offer a way forward.

"We have shown that there's a value for us up here, not just in our classrooms but to make changes," said Collier.

The cabinet will meet once more in November to determine its recommendations. Some of those recommendations will likely show up in the governor's budget bill in December.

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