What Leadership Looks Like – Teacher Shortages, Learning Losses and Gov. Youngkin

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes you just have to let leaders speak for themselves.

This is one of those times.

Faced with critical teacher shortages and learning losses, I publish here the Governor’s Executive Order 3 and Bridging the Gap: Learning Loss Recovery Plan

I don’t just congratulate the governor, but everyone involved, especially including the fifteen school divisions who agreed to try to become part of the solution in learning losses.

Quoting:

EXECUTIVE DIRECTIVE NUMBER THREE (2022) ADDRESSING TEACHER SHORTAGES IN VIRGINIA SCHOOLS

By virtue of the authority vested in me as Governor, I hereby issue this Executive Directive to address the Commonwealth’s teacher shortages by removing obstacles that prevent qualified individuals from filling critical vacancies.

Importance of the Initiative

Consistent with national trends, Virginia is seeing teacher shortages. There are few professionals who are more dedicated and hardworking than teachers. Educating Virginia’s children requires a strong teacher pipeline and workforce. Recruiting, growing, and retaining high-quality teachers is crucial to ensuring a best-in-class education for our students. One of my Administration’s top priorities is to ensure we provide a great teacher for every classroom in every school in Virginia.

The widening achievement gaps in the latest results from our Standards of Learning state assessments demand action. Our children are still recovering from devastating learning loss and other effects of school shutdowns. We must pursue a comprehensive approach to supporting teacher recruitment and retention efforts.

Directive

Accordingly, pursuant to the authority vested in me as the Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth, and pursuant to Article V of the Constitution of Virginia and the laws of the Commonwealth, I hereby direct my administration to take the following actions to address the current teacher shortage:

  1. The Superintendent of Public Instruction shall use all discretion within law to issue teaching and renewal licenses, including to teachers licensed in another state and retired teachers whose licenses may have lapsed.
  2. The Superintendent of Public Instruction shall coordinate with the Virginia Retirement System to ensure that all vacant K-12 teaching positions are classified to allow retired teachers to fill them.
  3. The Secretary of Education shall collaborate with the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Secretary of Finance, the Secretary of Labor, and the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry to develop additional legislative proposals to reduce red tape associated with teacher licensure, while ensuring high standards, in order to recruit more out of state teachers, retired teachers, career switchers, military veterans and other professionals with much to offer students.
  4. The Superintendent of Public Instruction shall target teacher recruitment and retention efforts to the communities and subject areas most in need by:
    1. targeting discretionary grants for teacher recruitment and retention bonuses to school divisions with the highest and most persistent teacher vacancy rates;
    2. coordinating teacher recruitment and retention dollars to maximize teacher benefits;
    3. targeting recruitment incentives toward existing, previously filled positions, rather than those newly established through the federal government’s COVID-19 relief funds which expire in 2024;
  5. The Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry shall establish a registered teacher occupation apprenticeship program with school divisions and educator preparation providers to train and license new teachers, including paraprofessional educators.
  6. The Superintendent of Public Instruction shall issue a statewide model policy to establish childcare specialist apprenticeship opportunities for high school students.
  7. The Secretary of Education shall develop policies, including any potential legislation, to support childcare operating inside of schools to benefit both teachers and local families.
  8. The Superintendent of Public Instruction shall ensure that all teachers who are eligible are fully informed of their opportunity to apply for the Child Care Subsidy Program, a public-private parent choice program that serves as a national model for early childhood education and care, as well as other child care opportunities.
  9. The Superintendent of Public Instruction shall expand and improve the annual survey of school divisions to identify critical, unfilled teaching positions, emphasizing those needed to meet the Standards of Quality. The Superintendent of Public Instruction shall develop and annually administer a qualitative survey for all returning teachers to identify what is working, as well as all exiting teachers to identify the main causes of teachers transitioning jobs or leaving the profession.

Effective Date

This Executive Directive shall be effective upon its signing and shall remain in force and effect unless amended or rescinded by further executive order or directive. Given under my hand and under the Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia this 1st day of September 2022.

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Glenn Youngkin, Governor

The Governor also announced Bridging the Gap: Learning Loss Recovery Plan

Bridging the Gap is a critical piece of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s effort to restore educational excellence to Virginia’s public schools. This initiative will spotlight some of the great programs, intervention strategies, and successes that school divisions across Virginia are implementing now, while supporting more innovative applications of data-driven instruction and increasing the capacity for every school to strengthen their relationships with parents and student caregivers.

This transformational approach will:

  1. Provide individualized student data reports so that every K-8 student, parent and teacher has all of a student’s assessment information in an understandable, actionable report. This information about student proficiency and learning loss empowers these critical stakeholders to make the best decisions to ensure every child is prepared for life.
  2. Ensure every student who is not on track has a Personalized Learning Plan that commits to a set of actions that teachers, parents, and students will take to address learning gaps. These Personalized Learning Plans will be developed and executed in partnership with teachers, parents, and students.
  3. Provide comprehensive training to teachers on how to communicate with parents and students about where a student is academically and the steps that will be taken together to get a student to grade-level proficiency.

Fifteen school divisions are participating in the pilot, with the key task of trading ideas about how to reach its goals.

The 15 partner school divisions in Bridging the Gap are:

  • Amherst County Public Schools
  • Bristol Public Schools
  • Caroline County Public Schools
  • Charlottesville Public Schools
  • Chesterfield County Public Schools
  • Craig County Public Schools
  • Cumberland County Public Schools
  • Dinwiddie County Public Schools
  • Franklin County Public Schools
  • Gloucester County Public Schools
  • Hanover County Public Schools
  • Lynchburg Public Schools
  • Pittsylvania County Public Schools
  • Stafford County Public Schools
  • Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools

“This pilot year will provide partner school divisions with access to individualized student data reports, support developing a personalized learning plan model that meets their needs, and continual training from the VDOE and its partners. Participation in the pilot will not necessarily include an entire division; Education leaders can choose the schools or programs that may most benefit from participation.”

“We believe in partnerships and the power of collective expertise. VDOE will use this pilot year to collect and implement feedback from superintendents, school leaders, parents, and teachers so that the initiative is responsive to unique local needs. By the time students head back to school in 2023, every student, parent, and teacher should have access to these individualized student data reports, personalized learning plans as needed, and comprehensive teacher training.”

My Take:  That, my friends, is leadership from the Governor down to the participating school divisions.

I fully expect, and so do you, that the Biden administration will try to prevent this from working or at least being seen as a good idea, especially before the mid-terms.

I hope not.

But if history teaches us, they will not be able to abide Glenn Youngkin achieving a victory in addressing education crises.

Neither will their acolytes.

But we live in Virginia.  And this brings light into the darkness that has been the prospects for our public schools.

Godspeed.