Cuccinelli wants to fix SOLs, lower college tuition rates

Posted at 12:28 PM, Nov 01, 2013

EDITOR’S NOTE: This semester has partnered with VCU’s School of Mass Communications “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project. Students from the project reported the following story.

RICHMOND, Va. – If elected governor next Tuesday, Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli wants to reform the SOL testing in K-12 and lower tuition rates in higher education. In an interview with VCU’s “iPadJournos” project, the attorney general outlined his education plans for the state.

“We believe the Standards of Learning tests need to evolve. They were a great tool almost 20 years ago when we first brought them online to provide accountability to taxpayers and to parents,” Cuccinelli said in the interview. “We also want to move away from rote memorization and teaching to the test that I believe are problems with the current way we use standards of learning tests.”

Cuccinelli wants SOLs to be based more on competency and cognition rather than memorization. His opponent, Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe, wants to change the entire format of SOL tests all together. McAuliffe said that he wants to reform the test so that it is more progress based, showing the students’ evolution throughout the year, as opposed to the current year-to-year standard.

Cuccinelli has also said that he thinks the test score comparisons as well as the timing of the tests needs to be fixed, because he thinks they are unfair to students and teachers. He said that all schools are tied to the same testing date and that is not fair, because different children have different paces of learning.

“The schools can test at different times of the year. They can retest faster for kids that fail on the first try, and it also accommodates schools on different school schedules,” Cuccinelli said. He added that if students fail the SOL tests, the teachers are blamed, and that it is not fair to base teacher evaluations on test scores.

“I don’t think they’re the fairest tool in the world to evaluate teachers with, because teachers sort of take their kids as they find them rather than getting evaluated on what they provide for their children in the classroom for the year,” Cuccinelli said. “That’s really the direction we need to go to be fairer to teachers.”

In the interview with the “iPadJournos” project, Cuccinelli also addressed the current challenges of higher education in Virginia. As the father of seven children and with one in college now, he thinks that the cost of higher education is a major issue that needs to be solved by the state. The increasing costs are hurting middle class families the most, he said.

“One of my most critical focuses for higher education is the cost, its affordability. We have financial aid for people at the bottom of the economic scale, thank goodness. People at the top of the economic scale don’t need it, but the massive middle we’re pricing college out of reach,” Cuccinelli said.

In order to lower the costs of higher education, Cuccinelli wants to see universities and colleges offer more online courses and aggressive tuition rates in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) to keep bills on students lower. He sees the online course offerings by Liberty University as a model that public institutions should look at.

“I’ve proposed aggressively using the kind of credits you pull from high school now and digital learning to start to reduce prices and to challenge each university to find a way to offer a $10,000 STEM degree. I expect to be for people who have credits coming in and for some digital learning to go on so they can make more productive use of their teachers,” he said.

Simply asking schools to lower tuition rates and creating more grants will help, but according to Cuccinelli there will need to be more done to help decrease the financial load put on parents and students across the state. His platform calls for guaranteed tuition rates from the beginning of college to when the student graduates, an increase to work-study in the state and to embed some companies in schools across the state to increase employability.

An interview of the VCU “iPadJournos” project with Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis about his education policies was published on on Thursday. The campaign of Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe did not respond to interview requests by the “iPadJournos” project.

Watch the full-length interview with Ken Cuccinelli:

By Mason Brown and Amir Vera (Special to

This story was reported by the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project, a cooperation between and VCU’s School of Mass Communications.