CES School Seeks SOL Waiver

Published 5:11 pm Tuesday, April 23, 2013

CUMBERLAND – In response to a newly enacted mandate passed by the General Assembly, the Cumberland County School Board is taking the next steps forward in applying for funding for a reading specialist to work in the elementary school.

In order for the elementary school to receive state funding to support a reading specialist, it must apply to the Board of Education for a waiver from Standards of Learning (SOL) requirements for third grade students in science and/or history.

The purpose of the waiver from SOL requirements is to create “additional instructional time for reading specialists to work with students reading below grade level to improve reading achievement,” according to the summary submitted in the board packet by school administration.

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Newly passed legislation provides partial state funding of the reading specialist, if less than 75 percent of third graders passed the SOL reading test the previous academic year.

Last year, 71 percent of Cumberland Elementary School students passed the SOL reading test. The passing rate for the elementary school has dropped by eight percent over the past three years.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Amy Griffin told the Cumberland Board of Supervisors during a budget hearing held on April 2 that the position of reading specialist had been eliminated from the elementary school during budget cuts three years ago and, since then, the reading pass rate has declined.

During their April 8 meeting, the school board voted to apply for a two-year waiver from both science and history SOL requirements for the elementary school, in order to seek the funding.

The locality will still be required to pay the remaining amount for the position.

Of the $337,421 in additional funding requested by the school from the County, $62,200 was for the locality's portion of the reading specialist, according to the 2013-2014 school budget.

Because the Cumberland Board of Supervisors did not approve the school's requested increase, the school will likely have to make cuts elsewhere in its budget to accommodate the mandated local portion of the funding for the position.

According to the school board packet, a teacher endorsed as a reading specialist has been transferred into an elementary reading specialist position for the 2013-2014 school year.

According to the waiver application approved by the school board to be submitted to the Virginia Department of Education, the reading specialist will serve two functions.

First, the specialist will work with students who are below grade level in reading in “pull-out settings.”

Secondly, the specialist will support teachers.

But, just because the school is requesting the SOL assessment requirement be waived does not mean it won't continue to teach science and history.

The school will still teach the science and history Standards of Learning to elementary school students.

The division has also outlined a plan to monitor the progress of students in the two subject areas, as required by the waiver.

All four of the school board members present voted in support of the waiver. School board member Dr. Christine Ross, District Five, did not attend the meeting.

Other School Board Business

The board unanimously approved the Career and Technical Education Local Plan for 2013-2014 and Special Education Annual Plan for 2013-2014, both of which had been presented to them the previous meeting as a first read.

The board unanimously named Southworth Auto & Power Equipment to the 2013 Virginia School Boards Association Business Honor Roll.

The division's Technology Plan was submitted to the board as a first read. Dr. Griffin stated that the plan has been reviewed by the technology committee and is intended to provide a timeline for meeting student needs, assist in developing the budget and assure compliance with state and federal guidelines.

The superintendent also submitted a collection of policy updates and revisions recommended by the Virginia School Board Association as a first read. Dr. Griffin stated that most of the policy revisions were “technical or legal updates.”

Dr. Griffin introduced a principal evaluation tool as a first read, as well. It was developed to reflect the uniform performance standards and evaluation criteria for evaluating school principals approved by the Commonwealth of Virginia Board of Education, according to the board packet.

Dr. Griffin also announced changes to courses to be offered at the high school. She recommended that instead of building trades, the board approve offering carpentry courses. She stated that both the instructor and administration felt the new courses will offer more detailed instruction in a subject matter that students will need as they go out into the workforce.