Another key speaker at the Virginia Conference on Economic Leadership was Dr. Thomas R. Morris, Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia. His remarks were more in-depth than most political rhetoric that you hear about reforming our schools.
In fact, Dr. Morris cautioned the audience that reform was not the issue. Instead of reform, we should focus on raising expectations. He mentioned that there are two levels of diplomas that a high school student in Virginia can earn, standard or advanced studies. Dr. Morris suggested that we should push to have a higher percentage of students striving for the advanced studies diploma, rather than setting their goals at "just" finishing high school.
Even beyond the advanced studies high school diploma, the next step is to move a higher number of students into the secondary education system and into industry certification programs.
Falling in line with his boss, VA Governor Timothy Kaine, Dr. Morris endorsed pre-K education as a way to set children up as being "ready to learn" when they start kindergarten. Of course, not everyone agrees with that logic…
The overall feel of the talk, though, was one of a fresh look at the approach we usually take on education "reform", and why we need to change our perspective. Otherwise, we will change for the sake of change, rather than actually moving forward.