Virginia Educational Changes Needed to Prepare New Workforce

Local educators say more cooperation and collaboration needed in Virginia to prepare for changing job market.

This is the second of a two part series about the Feb. 25, 2012, joint retreat of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Fairfax County School Board. 

Part I, , was published Monday.


Providing a skilled work force for the next decade is going to require collaboration between public school systems, community colleges and four-year universities, according to local educators.

Dana Kauffman, director of College Government Affairs at (NOVA), said local communities need to grow their own front-line work force.  He addressed the .

A 2011 study conducted by Dr. Stephen Fuller of found there will be more than 300,000 new jobs coming to Fairfax County in the next 10 years, said Kauffman.

Forty percent of those are predicted to be in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, referred to in educational circles as “STEM.”  “That’s larger than the next four fields combined,” said Kauffman.

Kauffman said a study by a leading labor economist from Georgetown University estimated two-thirds of the new jobs will require post-secondary education.

“As the baby boomers retire, we will lose one of the best educated work forces the county has ever seen, replaced with one that is less educated and doesn’t have the skill sets to fill the new jobs,” said Kauffman. That’s because many people in the upcoming work force are from families in which no one has gone to college.

“We need your cooperation and partnership to work with business to provide better college access for first-generation college goers,” Kauffman told the supervisors and school board members.

More Access and 'SySTEMic Solutions'

Kauffman said Virginia HB 1184, which passed the Virginia House on Feb. 6, and the Virginia Senate on Feb. 20, would stretch enrollment at NOVA, and contribute to the needed work force.  HB 1184 provides dual enrollment for high school students, giving them college credit for work in high school.

In addition, NOVA is working with Delegate Jim Scott (D-Fairfax) and Delegate Tag Greason (R-Loudoun), supporting Budget Amendment #212H, which would provide $1 million for NOVA’s STEM initiative called SySTEMic Solutions.

“A $1 million commitment ($500,000 each year of the biennium) would bolster and expand SySTEMic Solutions beyond the current service area of Prince William to include Fairfax, Loudoun, Arlington, and Alexandria. The $1M from the General Assembly will be matched by corporations to be able to sustain and continue to expand these programs,” says a NOVA SySTEMic Solutions document.

NOVA projects the investmet will place more than 16,000 students in the technology worker pipeline by 2015 - 2016. 

“SySTEMic Solutions provides a replicable model to supply skilled workers through bringing a comprehensive STEM curriculum, intensive teacher training process and numerous dual enrollment student enrichment opportunities together in one research-based approach,” says the document.

“In the last 10 years, 30,000 students who started at NOVA have gone on to Mason,” said Kauffman.

Kauffman said a cooperative relationships between teachers and employers provides better understanding of what kids need to know to get into and hold a job.

NOVA is already working with Arlington High Schools on a class system, which would provide high school graduates with both a high school diploma and a two- year degree.

Remedial Education Needed

Superintendent Jack Dale reported about 20 percent of FCPS graduates go into NOVA, and 50 percent of those require some remedial work before beginning their core courses. 

“Those FCPS graduates coming into NOVA are not ready to handle college level English and math," Dale said.  “That means about 10 percent of our total graduates are showing need for some kind of remediation,” said Dale.

Dale believes the state’s Standards of Learning (SOLs) are creating a hurdle for college readiness.  “The misalignment comes because we teach to the what the SOLs want, not what colleges expect."

Dale said this kind of disconnect is not common in all states.  “Virginia is probably one of the least aligned education systems at the state level,” said Dale.   “There is no compelling reason at the state level for school systems, community colleges and four-year university’s to work together.”

“It’s stunning to me that you can get through our system without knowing the basics,” said Jeff McKay, Lee District Supervisor.

Dale said many FCPS students come late into the system.  “Our drop-out rate has been less than 10 percent over the last four years,’ said Dale.  “The majority of those entered FCPS in the late elementary or middle school grades, and had not mastered reading by graduation,” he said.

Students also move from one school in the county to another, and their identified needs fall through the cracks, said Dale.

Deputy County Executive Pat Harrison said the county is also looking at a county funded adult education partnership with NOVA.  Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross wanted to know where the school system's Adult and Community Education fit into that.   “I’m getting a lot of emails ,” Gross said.

Kauffman said a forum on preparing the new workforce will be scheduled this fall for all stakeholders.

Mike James February 28, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Sadly, somebody didn't inform Fairfax that it's snobbery to educate our workforce.
Amelie Krikorian February 28, 2012 at 09:45 PM
We are failing our kids in multiple ways. First, by expecting every child to pass the SOLs: the SOLs (as Dale says) do not represent what kids need to know to get into college. Neither do they represent what kids need to know who are NOT going to college. Why would someone who is going into his dad's plumbing business need to pass Algebra? People keep talking about 100% of kids being able to pass the SOLs to be able to graduate and there are plenty of kids out there for whom this is not appropriate. The other reason that kids are graduating without knowing the basics is simple economics: if you have a kid who won't do his homework and gets Fs on his tests, teachers may still end up passing him up to the next grade. Why? If he is one of the few representatives of a minority his failure affects the teacher's salary. So you can either give him the grade he deserves and make him repeat the year but take a salary cut, or you can make him someone else's problem next year. There are plenty of kids and parents who know how to put pressure on teachers and administrators to force them to pass their kids, no matter how much they need to repeat.
Jonathan Erickson February 28, 2012 at 09:53 PM
If the teacher can't teach then get rid of the kid? More teacher pressure oh come on. Sounds like teacher integrity is pretty low if they would pass a student in order to get a raise.
Kathy Keith February 28, 2012 at 10:00 PM
Amelie, you make some very good points. As far as "social promotion" of underachieving kids, I don't have an answer. However, I do know that you should not have ten year olds in a class with six year olds. Sadly, this is what would occur in some cases if we keep holding them back. I taught years ago where there was wholesale retention of kids. This was in a neighborhood of poverty. Usually, the second year was no better than the first because the kids just did not have the tools and were so far behind the curve when they started school. Most of these children would have qualified for special services today--this was before we had so many special ed and LD teachers. I do believe that every child can learn--but we need to be realistic and figure out options for the kids that are really going to struggle with algebra and abstract thinking. However, no child should be "pigeonholed" too early. I do know this: the answer is not pouring more money into programs that support bureaucrats. Personally, I think we need to put money into the early grades--but not in "programs" that support bureaucrats or fancy equipment. It needs to go in classrooms.
Michael February 29, 2012 at 01:40 AM
Behind all the hand-wringing I note two important statistics: 1. 75% of all FCPS students pursue higher ed. within 16 months of graduation (as reported by the Fairfax Times). 2. Approx. 66% of all new jobs in Fairfax Co. will require some higher ed. I'm not saying there isn't room for improvement. I've seen first-hand that what VDOE requires of high-schoolers bears little resemblance to the needs of higher ed. or of the workplace, and there is much scope for what we call "vertical articulation." I AM saying that the percentage of students who at least pursue higher ed. is well in line with the need - so it's not a matter of pushing more kids into college, it's a matter of helping the ones who choose that path be better prepared.
Amelie Krikorian February 29, 2012 at 12:06 PM
We need to have smaller numbers in the classroom so that kids who need individual attention can get it. I have a friend teaching fourth grade who has 17 out of 28 kids with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). For every hour she spends on, for example, social studies, she ends up spending 45 minutes of that hour working either 1 on 1 or 1 on 2 with those kids... and the other 11 just have to do it on their own. Plus, the two or three minutes she manages with each of the IEP kids isn't nearly enough to help them out. Yet she can't extend the hour for social studies because she is also required to teach an hour of math and an hour and a half of language arts each day, and the kids usually have a special, lunch, recess, etc. The answer really is smaller classes so the kids get the help they need.
Chris Anderson February 29, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Are you joking? You ask why would someone need to know Algebra to be a plumber? Why would they NOT need to know Algebra? Everyone needs to know algebra. Pick something else. Pick world history...pick basket weaving...but ALGEBRA??? C'mon man.
Chris Anderson February 29, 2012 at 01:19 PM
You make some reasonable points. I would suggest that there is a tremendous misunderstanding of what it takes to be "prepared for college", however. Success or failure in college has little to do with your coursework in high school but everything to do with your discipline and work ethic. Study skills, time management, note taking and organization of materials make a difference. Knowledge of available resources for research (journals and citation indices etc.) is paramount. Finally, this discussion begs the whole question of whether or not Colleges and Universities are the appropriate venues to "prepare a workforce". They aren't vocational centers, and there is already a shift away from reliance on the university system due to the low percentage of entry level applicants that are prepared in any way for any job.
Mike Kane February 29, 2012 at 02:41 PM
This is one of the crucial problems with a mandated, public school system with out parental choice.
Jonathan Erickson February 29, 2012 at 03:02 PM
What and how are you supposed to grade if you don't test? It seems the standards should be used to weed out the weaker teachers and students and get both of them help. Some people need to get into a work enviroment before they start to make assumptions about who needs algebra or not. First a teacher who passes a kid because of a raise shoudl at least be suspended without pay. If you can't handle the pressure find another job. Don't blame admin, the parents, the bureaucrats, the class size, the salary , the benefits package, your health, the students, cowboy up and own it. Sounds like some need a different vocation as you cannot seem to manage your time well enough to teach a class. If you can't do the job well don't you feel you should take a reduction in pay until you become capable of preforming to a high standard? I know it's all about the kids until it affects my pocketbook!
Mike James February 29, 2012 at 03:11 PM
There is no problem since there already is parental choice in this matter, it's called home schooling. You can choose to pull your children out of school and educate them on how horrible our system is, how science isn't real, why helping people who can't afford heath care should just die and why we should go back on the gold standard since Armageddon is right around the corner.
Kaja Milutinovic February 29, 2012 at 05:09 PM
The whole notion of educating students equally is impossible as well as unrealistic. Not every child is academically inclined to go to college. Our school system is geared to preparing students for the college track and those who do not choose that are left to flounder. Why not implement an apprenticeship/vocational program like they have in Europe. This way students have the opportunity to learn a skill or trade before they graduate. Afterall, it is not reasonable to expect EVERYONE to go to college. On a different note, I do not agree with constantly blaming teachers for failing SOLS and undereducated students. There are factors that must be considered case by case..environment, parents, skills, learning ability and finally as a society we must understand that some students have no interest in learning or being in school. The key is to atleast teach a skill that they can use beyond high school.
Chris Anderson February 29, 2012 at 05:12 PM
@Mike James - You seem to have a lot of misconceptions about home schooling. You might want to check out some reality.
Mike James February 29, 2012 at 05:56 PM
My main point was that your statement was incorrect, there are choices for parents with regards for education. Since you choose not to address it, I will: Is it a misconception to say that people who home school can teach their children what they want? They don't want their children being indoctrinated into a system that teaches them something they believe is false.That's the beauty of having a democracy that actually values choice. We have an educational system that's free, appropriate and available to everyone and then we also let people have choices if they don't like the system. No matter how regressive the populace feels home schooling is we still allow it to happen. This is the problem with the YOYO (you're on your own) political system that is being promulgated today. The YOYO's want to take away the choices of the populace under some crazy fundamentalist ideas which will force the rest of us to fit their ideas of utopia. If you're a republican you have three fundamentalists to pick from: Romney: financial fundamentalism, Santorum: religious fundamentalism, Paul: constitutional fundamentalism. The fact that the country isn't a fundamentalist nation shows the disconnect between the fringe and the mainstream.
Kathy Keith February 29, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Testing should be a factor in teacher evaluation, but testing brings with it a LOT of unintended consequences and creates problems as well. Here are a few: 1. The playing field is not even. Are you going to compare a basketball coach with kids that are five foot six against a coach whose kids are six foot five? Generally, the lower the IQ, the slower the progress--so you can't just measure progress. 2. How are classes assigned? Is the principal assigning kids fairly to teachers? It would be easy to set up a teacher the principal does not like. 3. Fraud would be rampant. Even before SOL's and NCLB I knew a teacher who gave extra help to kids so hers would do better. She bragged to the principal about her test scores on reading--all her kids, she said, were "above grade level". The teachers who had her kids the following year disagreed. In fact, her kids were not doing as well as many of the others. We've been seeing fraud and cheating on SAT tests lately. I can only imagine what would happen if we based teachers' pay -or their jobs-on testing alone. 4.Testing is not always as "standard" as you think it is. Some teachers follow the directions to the "T" while others give extra time, etc. 5. What about a teacher with a transient class? He/she may end up with only half of the kids he/she started with. 6. Is the test actually testing what it is supposed to? Who is designing the test? 7. What about the teacher who has kids who don't get to school every day?
Chris Anderson February 29, 2012 at 08:30 PM
@Mike James - Mike, you have no "main point". Your comments speak for themselves, once one wades through the incorrect grammar and punctuation. Your objectives are to jump to conclusions, stereotype home schooling, malign your political opponents, and pontificate your politics. Not much of an agenda for public commentary. Boring actually, and not worthy of any further exchange. Have a good day.
Jonathan Erickson February 29, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Why not make grades 9 through 12 year round, give the teachers 25% more in salary, Then you have the year from age 17 to 18 to work and see if you want to join a trade, the military or a hospital or prep for college. Make the last year a apprenticeship program for all.
Mike February 29, 2012 at 09:32 PM
@Jonathan Erickson Great ideas, I like them.
Jennifer Hall March 04, 2012 at 12:50 AM
I work in Social Services. I should have paid better attention in Algerbra. I use math everyday as part of my job.
Sally Spangler March 28, 2012 at 03:36 PM
I know Fairfax County teachers are given chances to take classes during and after the school year to upgrade their subject knowledge. So - how long does it take each night and weekends to keep up with the work handed in daily to go over, correct, note positively or correctively back to the student(s)? To take the evenings and fill them with their own studies expanding their knowledge. The teacher becomes the student. Hmm, is there some sort of problem with too much on the teacher to cover in a seven day week.
Sally Spangler March 28, 2012 at 03:45 PM
I took high school subjects preparing me to go to college. Then Mother put a stop to that. The math and science classes, not to mention the English and History, were used in being a secretary.. I didn't know shorthand. Didn't need it with a word processor. I could spell. I knew how to set up problems and use them as were needed in the papers my employers were using in all kinds of engineering problems. I could certainly fix their English errors! I could ask questions as to whether the problems as they stated were the ones they did wanted or maybe another one which I thought might be a better.
Richard Baker January 23, 2013 at 08:53 PM
Used to be a math/science teacher in Florida. Told my kids that learning mathematics trains your mind to think logically. Not everyone will utilize STEM as a career but learning to organize your thoughts via math will teach that critical thinking which allows one to work through problems in life.


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