Good morning Eduwonk fans!

Substitute blogger Charles Pyle of the Virginia Department of Education here, signing in on my last day of substitute blogging duty.

This is a busy time here at the department. Schools are reopening across the state. State law specifies the day after Labor Day as the first day of school in Virginia but more than half of our school districts (or divisions as we call them here) have waivers from the Board of Education and begin instruction in August. Many schools in the mountains, valleys, and highlands of Southwestern Virginia actually begin instruction in mid-August, which is why we here at VDOE slam to get AYP ratings out in the middle of the month.

It has been a busy week. We are still fielding lots of calls about AYP from reporters milking downstream stories. Sometimes I feel like an answering machine: “Press ‘1’ for a general discussion of AYP. Press ‘2’ for a detailed discussion of Title I school improvement. Press ‘3’ for a discussion of Virginia’s requested waivers. Press ‘4’ to repeat this menu.”

Also getting general calls about back-to-school issues, although the news here (as is the case in many other states) is all about BRAC.

We also are gearing up for next week’s release by the College Board of the performance of our students on the SAT and Advanced Placement tests. Several years ago, the College Board took the helpful step of breaking out public school performance (hint to ACT).

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is doing the back to school circuit. This is from her news release regarding an appearance at a school in Atlanta:

“No Child Left Behind is a partnership, not a mandate,” she said. “I take that partnership seriously.”
Spellings said she has kept her promise to help states “implement this law in a sensible and workable way”—as long as they enforce the bright lines of the law, such as annual assessments for all students.
“So it troubles me that in Connecticut, three years into the law and after taking more than $750 million for No Child Left Behind, on the eve of compliance, they are now disputing annual assessment requirements,” said Spellings.

One issue to watch regarding states that are introducing tests this year in previously untested grades is how USDOE responds to requests to phase in the results of new tests for AYP calculations. Our experience here is that it does take time for teachers in previously untested grades to adust.

That’s all for now – be back a little later.

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