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NoVA School Officials See Pros And Cons To McDonnell Plan

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Teachers in Virginia could see some big changes in schools next year if Gov. Bob McDonnell's plan is implemented.
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Teachers in Virginia could see some big changes in schools next year if Gov. Bob McDonnell's plan is implemented.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell presented a $438 million education plan for Virginia's public school system Jan. 9. Local school systems are giving it mixed reviews.

The governor wants to extend the school day and school year and end social promotion, especially in early education. McDonnell says it is critically important that 3rd graders who cannot read at proficiency are held back until they are ready. 

McDonnell is also proposing an "earning for learning" program that provides financial incentives for reading. Fairfax County Public Schools superintendent Dr. Jack Dale disagrees with the notion.

"Giving cash rewards to kids for learning is not something I've subscribed to in the past," he says. "Typically what we look at is how to have kids intrinsically motivated to learn, and typically younger kids are."

While Fairfax County School Board Chair Janie Strauss calls paying students to read is questionable, she does agree with eliminating social promotion in 3rd Grade.

"You really do have to be on grade level in 3rd grade or you really struggle mightily going forward," Strauss says. "So that really is an important benchmark year."

McDonnell also wants to provide high-performing math and science teachers with $5,000 bonuses. 

Dale and other educators in the area do agree with the Governor's plan to get rid of the so-called Labor Day Law. The move would allow public schools to start earlier in the summer; currently, school cannot begin before Labor Day in the commonwealth. 

It does allow our student more time to prepare for testing, and we are one of only two states in the country that does not allow local school boards to decide their own calendars," says Abby Raphael, chair of the Arlington school board. 

The governor's overall plan calls for a strong focus on science, technology, engineering and math programs, starting at the elementary school level. 

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