Virginia Schools Focus On The Needs Of Families

by : Patricia Hawke

Virginia Schools are not alone in meeting the challenges of rising standards and inadequate funding. Efforts to update the state’s Standards of Learning (SOL) have been on-going since the late 1990s; long before the 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act was implemented. What Virginia Schools have discovered is that there is not a “one size fits all" solution to education reform.

A 2007 Center on Education Policy report confirmed this belief when it said that the most successfully reformed schools analyzed data and made targeted and specific reforms. Different districts in the Virginia Schools are looking for the best ways to meet the needs of their students. The Virginia Beach City Public Schools is a great example. Due to its large military population, this corner of Virginia Schools has challenges with families on the move, absent parents and single parents. Several Virginia Schools are utilizing this information to make improvements.

Troop Tube: Operation Graduation is one way that the Virginia Schools are trying to help meet the needs of their families. The local cable company, Cox Communications, has donated the equipment to transmit 11 Virginia Schools High School Graduations over the internet. Military family members, or distanced love ones, can view the graduation on the district website at

According to Virginia Beaches School Superintendent Dr. James G. Merrill, “Nearly 24 percent of our students are connected to the military. It’s critical that we find innovative ways to meet their needs. By the very nature of their jobs and commitment to our country, these military families are often separated for holidays and important family occasions. This initiative is just one way to help them stay connected."

Another concern of these Virginia Schools is the large number of single parents. Virginia Schools and the National Network of Partnership Schools (NNPS) have teamed up to provide support and information to help engage single parents in their child’s education. There are over 12.3 million single parents in the United States. Virginia Schools and the Virginia Beach District offers workshops aimed at helping single-family parents overcome obstacles to their child’s education.

Many studies have found correlations between low income, single parent households, minority status, and low academic achievement. Virginia Schools have identified the education and support of parents of at-risk learners as a key step to improving that achievement gap. The NNPS has provided Virginia Schools with a six-tiered program outlining the keys to successful community and parent involvement. The six keys are: parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making, and collaborating with community. Virginia Schools are hopeful that increased and meaningful parent involvement combined with support for high academic standards will help increase student achievement.