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State Superintendent Wright announces retirement

Virginia schools Superintendent Patricia I. Wright on Tuesday announced that she will retire May 1 after serving six years in the position.

Wright was appointed superintendent in 2008 by Gov. Tim Kaine (D), and reappointed two years later by Gov. Bob McDonnell (R). She also served as acting superintendent under Gov. Mark Warner (D).

“It has been a great honor to serve as state superintendent and collaborate with so many outstanding educators across the commonwealth,” she said in a statement.

Wright’s tenure saw major revisions of the school system’s academic standards and accreditation requirements to make them more rigorous and more oriented to college and career readiness.

Wright’s work in the state Department of Education spans nearly three decades. She worked as a middle and high school math teacher before starting at the Department of Education as the state mathematics supervisor in 1985.

“Few have made a greater difference in the lives of Virginians than Pat Wright has, and I have no doubt that her legacy will endure in the students and colleagues she mentored and inspired,” said Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in a statement.

SOL testing reform heads to governor’s desk

Reform of the state’s standardized assessment tests moved one step closer to reality last weekend.

The General Assembly passed legislation that would reduce the number of Standards of Learning (SOL) exams for elementary and middle school students.

The bill calls for five fewer tests for students in grades 3 through 8, who currently are required to take 22 tests in that span. The changes would take effect starting next school year.

Science and social studies tests would be eliminated for third graders, social studies tests for fourth and sixth graders and writing tests for fifth graders. These subjects would instead be assessed using alternative methods such as projects or reports.

County School Board member Ted Velkoff (At-large) applauded state legislators for not stopping at the short-term relief of reduced tests and pushing toward long-term reform.

“We can’t just reduce tests,” Velkoff said. “We need better forms of assessment.”

If passed, the proposed legislation also would create a Standards of Learning Innovation Committee to review and make recommendations on the state’s assessment system. The committee would be made up of elected officials, school employees and other stakeholders, including “at least one parent of a currently enrolled public school student.”

— Kate Yanchulis