Government Relations News

Virginia School Counselor Association

Speak Out to Your Legislators!

VSCA has discussed and taken a position on House Bill 930 (HB930) about SOL Testing. You may view the summary or entire bill at http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?141+sum+HB930.


In Summary, VSCA agrees with lowering the amount of SOL tests in Grades K-8. We are concerned about the High School SOL changes without lowering graduation requirements and which bill is planning to eliminate at the high school level.


If you agree, please view and tweak the email below and email your legislator. The more emails a delegate receives from their constituents, the more they listen, so let your friends and colleagues know as well!


Don’t know who your delegate is or how to find their email? Go to http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/VGAMain?openform and type in your address. Your state senator and delegate will come up, click on more information and their email address will also appear.


SAMPLE EMAIL:


Subject: Concerns about HB 930 As Presented


Delegate Massie,


I am a constituent in your district, a resident of Lakeside, and and I am also a high school counselor in a local, large, public school system. I have concerns about HB 930 as it is currently written, which has recently been referred to the Education Committee. I met you a few weeks ago when I was able to attend the House Education Committee with Virginia School Counselor Association.

I do agree with parts of this bill. As a school counselor, I do support lowering the amount of testing at all levels, however, I do feel that at the high school level, this bill is premature to changing graduation requirements. Let me start at the beginning. I do strongly support lowering the amount of SOL tests in grades 3-8! However, the part of the bill that needs major revisions are the changes to the High School SOLs. ((f) algebra 1, algebra 2, biology, chemistry, reading, writing, United States history, world history 1, and world history 2 once each in grades nine through 12.)

My rationale is that the graduation requirements are not changing, therefore, according to this bill there will be 9 High School SOLs left. Students need 9 SOLs to graduate from High School with the Advanced Studies Diploma. Therefore, we are being very specific that the students MUST take all nine of these classes to graduate with that Advanced Studies and they have to pass ALL 9 SOLs. With the recent changes to math SOLs especially ( MUCH MUCH HARDER for students) we are limiting opportunities to pass since they only have SOLs in Algebra I and Algebra II.

I also strongly disagree with the SOLs that they have chosen to be removed! Earth Science is often one of the only science SOL tests my students can pass. Now we are saying that a Standard Diploma student must pass the Biology SOL and an Advanced Studies student must pass Biology and CHEMISTRY!

With the elimination of the Geometry SOL, the students have to pass either Algebra I or Algebra II and for a Standard Diploma and BOTH for the Advanced Studies Diploma. In education, one thing that I quickly learned is you have some students that are usually stronger at Algebra and some students that are stronger with Geometry. Now they are limiting the students who are stronger at Geometry and they may not be able to graduate from high school.

Those are my biggest concerns. I are very concerned with the approval of this bill as is, the graduation rates will DECLINE rapidly! Not only will less students graduate with an Advanced Studies Diploma, I also feel strongly that less students will even graduate with a Standard Diploma because this bill is removing two of the SOL tests that some of our students are successful on! Like I said before, I DO believe in less testing for our stressed out students! However, I feel that with this bill, we are going about this backwards. Changing graduation requirements by lowering the amount of SOLs a student needs to graduate from high school should be done FIRST and Educators, especially School Counselors who track students graduation requirements should be consulted and a discussion should happen as to what SOLs to choose to be eliminated.

Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to my concerns. Please feel free to contact me if you have any additional questions.


Renee Zando
(add Home Address)
(add Home Phone Number)

Legislative Day 2014

One VSCA Member's Account of Legislative Day

I love to vote. I love the feeling I get when I have exercised my right and let my voice be heard. I wear my “I voted” sticker proudly all day (and not just for the free Chick-fil-A sandwich), and I get a little bounce in my step leaving the polling place…

This month I attended VSCA Legislative Day at the General Assembly, and wow, it was that same felling I get after I vote, multiplied by 1,000! I was so delighted at how easy the day was and how inspired I felt by the experience.

I know it sounds scary – really scary, when VSCA asks for counselors to go talk to legislators about issues in school counseling; but maybe a glimpse at my day will help ease your mind about the experience and you might hopefully consider joining us next year.

My day began at 8:30 AM when I traveled down to the General Assembly Building (GAB). For the purpose of full disclosure, I did not drive, I had a friend pick me up, and therefore driving downtown was not stressful! Anyway, we paid to park and went on our way. We entered the GAB and walked down to one of the House rooms where we met our lobbyist. We were invited into the House Education Committee meeting that was already in progress. We sat in the back and listened attentively! I had no idea that committee meetings are open to the public – and it was fascinating stuff! It was their first meeting, so nothing too juicy, but still an exciting process to witness.

We then went upstairs to the conference room VSCA reserved for our Legislative Day. Our lobbyist did an amazing job of setting up the room with food and beverages, with our literature, and with some small gifts for legislators. Next, as promised, legislators and legislative assistants began to enter the room. We introduced ourselves, chatted, listened, and sometimes even laughed. It was informal yet informative, and it was a two-way street. We talked to them about what issues concerned us and they talked to us about their roles and the bills they were introducing that might be of interest to us. When we were stuck on what to say, our lobbyist was right there by our side to offer support! In between greeting the legislators in the conference room, many of the VSCA members in attendance went to the offices of their senator and delegate to talk more personally with them as their constituent. This was completely optional, but I found it to be another great way to talk about our association and to talk about my personal feelings on school counseling and education. Legislators love to talk to their own constituents so some were even asking where the counselors from their districts were (we of course said, “At work advocating for students!”).

Some might think talking to legislators must be a strength of mine – let me tell you, it is not. I am not an extrovert (and some of you might not agree with that either, but it is true. My personality preference is to be an introvert, and before this day the idea of doing this made my palms sweat). This was out of the box for me and not in my comfort zone. It is scary because it is so unlike what we do every day as school counselors, but sometimes I like to push myself, and I am so glad I did!

By 11:30 AM, we were done! A few of us stayed to go to the general session of the House at noon and watch from the gallery. They sat us in reserved seats in the front, and it was pretty thrilling when Delegate Futtrell introduced us to the House! They had a short meeting and then we were done, and I walked away with that same little bounce I get after voting!

I hope many more members will join us next year. If you have any questions (however small) please feel free to ask, I am happy to answer them all!

Sincerely,

Jenny Hubler