Virginia: Working in Education in Virginia

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Kudos for Virginia Schools

U.S. News & World Report recently named Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology the best-performing school out of 21,000 schools surveyed in 48 states and the District of Columbia. The ranking is part of the magazine's America's Best High Schools project.

Two Virginia schools and their principals were among ten schools honored as 2010 Breakthrough Schools by the National Association of Secondary Principals. As part of the award Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School in Henry County and Park View High School in Sterling each receive a $5,000 grant. Breakthrough schools are schools that serve a high proportion of students who live in poverty and that demonstrate significant improvements in student achievement.

According to a study on innovation in education by the Center on American Progress and the U.S. Chambers of Commerce, Virginia earned an excellent score for its ability to remove poor-performing teachers from the classroom. Thirty-two percent of principals surveyed reported that teacher's unions or associations make it harder to remove ineffective teachers, considerably lower than the national average of 61 percent. Sixty-seven percent of educational managers, however, reported that tenure is an obstacle to removing teachers who perform poorly.

Teacher's Aides

The critical shortage of special educators in Virginia has created opportunities for paraprofessionals. Courses created using Skill Competencies for Paraprofessionals and Professionals Serving Individuals with Autism across the Lifespan provide important information for professionals who work with people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Students taking these and other approved courses designed to prepare them to work with students with ASD are eligible for tuition reimbursement for stand alone courses and for courses that are part of a certificate program.

The 2008-2009 Tuition Assistance Program for Special Educators Teaching School-Age Students provides tuition reimbursement for full-time paraprofessionals who are enrolled in undergraduate or graduate courses related to special education.

Virginia uses the ParaPro Assessment to meet No Child Left Behind requirements for highly-qualified paraprofessionals. The ParaPro assessment measures the skills and knowledge of prospective and practicing paraprofessionals in math, reading, and writing, as well as their ability to apply those skills while assisting in classroom instruction.

Technology Education

The Virginia Virtual Advanced Placement School uses distance learning technologies to provide college-level, Advanced Placement, and foreign language courses. The school provides educational opportunities for students in schools that have too few students to justify hiring a full-time teacher or are unable to find qualified teachers and for students with scheduling conflicts.

By purchasing refurbished computers instead of new ones the Louisa County Public Schools in Mineral, Virginia saved $230,000, which allowed it to budget a wireless network.

Virginia was the first state to require Internet safety lessons for students, which must be integrated in instructional programs. Virginia is also a leader in online testing. Within five years of launching web-based testing, all schools systems were administering Virginia's Standards of Learning tests online. Schools now administer ninety-eight percent of the assessments online. The online testing program began in response to the need to get test results back quickly.

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