|For Immediate Release:||August 15, 2018|
|Contact:||Charles B. Pyle, Director of Communications, 804-371-2420
Julie C. Grimes, Communications Manager, 804-225-2543
Virginia Schools Begin New School Year Under Revised Standards of Accreditation
RICHMOND, Va. — The 2018-2019 school year is well underway in much of Virginia with students in more than 60 school divisions in the Shenandoah Valley, Southwest, Southside and Central Virginia returning to class during the first two weeks of August.
“There is a wave of first-day excitement rolling across the state, and I look forward to visiting as many schools as I can over the next several weeks and greeting our hardworking students and amazing teachers and principals,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said.
This academic year marks the implementation of major enhancements to the commonwealth’s school accreditation standards. The revisions to the Standards of Accreditation, approved by the state Board of Education in November 2017, are designed to provide a more comprehensive view of school quality, place increased on emphasis on closing achievement gaps and encourage continuous improvement for all schools.
“The revised accreditation system is a significant improvement and will provide a more holistic evaluation of school quality,” Lane said. “It includes multiple factors to comprehensively evaluate Virginia’s schools, requires continuous improvement for every school, shines a light on the needs of all students and ensures tailored and effective support for schools needing assistance. Our ultimate goal is for every Virginia student to attend a school that maximizes their potential.”
Beginning with the ratings for 2018-2019 — that will be announced next month — schools under the new accountability system will be scored on multiple school quality indicators as performing at one of three levels: Level One (at or above standard), Level Two (near standard or improving) or Level Three (below standard).
Schools with all indicators at Level One or Level Two will be rated as “Accredited.” Schools with one or more indicators at Level Three will be rated as “Accredited with Conditions.” Only schools that fail to implement state-required improvement plans would be rated as “Accreditation Denied” under the new system. Corrective action plans and state interventions currently in place for the state's lowest-performing schools will remain in effect.
“The purpose of school quality measurement is to highlight those places where improvement is needed, not to put a label on a school,” Board of Education President Daniel A. Gecker said. “The revised Standards of Accreditation allow for a closer look at specific areas of concern, such as narrowing of achievement gaps. This will enable local jurisdictions to focus resources where they are most needed to provide a high-quality education for all school children in the commonwealth.”
Under the new system, school quality indicators for English and mathematics will recognize the growth of students not meeting state benchmarks but achieving significant growth towards grade-level proficiency on Standards of Learning (SOL) tests. English learners making progress towards English-language proficiency are also included in the calculation.
“Some of our students, for various and complex reasons, enter our schools at different levels of readiness,” Fairfax County Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand said. “These new school quality indicators are providing an opportunity to give students and schools credit for the growth they achieve together each and every year.”
“We all know that the research indicates a correlation between poverty and performance,” Hampton Superintendent Jeffery Smith said. “Recognizing growth for students, particularly in grades four and five in reading and mathematics, enables schools to see the progress being made on an annual basis which I think is so very important.”
“Under the old accountability system, the student would take the SOL test, and the teacher would either see that pass or fail as his or her victory or his or her failure,” Charlottesville Superintendent Rosa Adkins said. “But now we recognize growth, and we can say ‘Yes, you are on the right track, teacher, you've done a great job. Now pass the mantle to the next teacher, and let that next teacher build on your success.’”
Schools will also be evaluated on progress in closing achievement gaps in English and mathematics, raising overall achievement in science and reducing chronic absenteeism. High schools will also be evaluated on their success in raising graduation rates and reducing dropout rates.
Smyth County Superintendent Dennis G. Carter said the inclusion of chronic absenteeism as a school quality indicator supports local efforts to improve attendance as a means of raising achievement and preparing students to meet the expectations of employers.
“When we took students who were considered chronically absent and those students who are not chronically absent, and when we compared SOL data, we found that there was a 20-point discrepancy between pass rates. That alone illustrates the importance of coming to school,” Carter said.
Every school under the new accreditation regulations — regardless of performance — must develop a multi-year plan to support continuous improvement on all school quality indicators. The revised Standards of Accreditation require specific local and state actions to improve performance on indicators rated at Level Two and Level Three.VDOE will release data on August 22 on the performance of students on 2017-2018 SOL tests. School accreditation ratings for the 2018-2019 school year will be released on September 27.