RD52 - 2003 Annual Report on the Condition and Needs of Public Schools in Virginia

Executive Summary:
The "2003 Annual Report on the Condition and Needs of the Public Schools in Virginia" provides a concise and comprehensive picture of the current condition and needs of the public schools in Virginia. During 2003, the Board of Education focused its efforts on three major priorities: 1) making necessary policy decisions and completing the application process to ensure that Virginia’s schools receive and retain funding provided under the "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001"; 2) identifying the conditions and needs of the public schools in order to prescribe revised Standards of Quality; and 3) continuing to update and improve the Standards of Learning content and program.

The annual report describes the condition and needs of the public schools using the following information:

• 2003 Standards of Learning test results: Overall student achievement increased on 19 of the 26 SOL tests administered during spring 2003 when compared with results from the previous year. Achievement remained at the same level or fell slightly on seven tests. Pass rates on 23 tests have increased by double-digit margins since 1998, including increases of 38 percent in Algebra I, 50 percent in Algebra II, and 27 percent in Geometry.

• 2003 Virginia Alternate Assessment test results: Of the 3017 scored Collections of Evidence received by the state scoring contractor, 91% of all students passed at least one specific content area of the Alternate Assessment. Scores reported to school divisions were reported and figured into the school accreditation formula.

• Results from the 2002 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show that the reading skills of Virginia students continue to improve and that the commonwealth’s students are now among the nation’s strongest readers. Virginia students improved upon their 1998 performance on the NAEP reading test and scored significantly higher than their counterparts nationwide and in the Southeast. On the NAEP writing tests, while there is room for improvement, the 2002 results tests show that our students are becoming stronger writers. Students in only three states outperformed Virginia students on the grade 8 test and that students in only four states outscored Virginia students in grade 4 by a statistically significant margin. In addition, Virginia fourth- and eighth-grade students posted significant gains in mathematics achievement on the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the Virginia Department of Education announced today. Results from the 2003 NAEP also show Virginia students maintaining the increases in reading achievement demonstrated by students in grades 4 and 8 in 2002.

• More Virginia public school students are taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses and exams. During the 2002-03 school year, 31,966 Virginia students took AP exams. This represented a 4.5 percent increase in AP participation over the previous year.

• Virginia now ranks first in the South and tenth in the nation in the percentage of high school seniors taking the SAT-I, which measures the aptitude of students for college-level work. The average score of Virginia seniors on the verbal portion of the SAT-I in 2003 was 514, four points higher than the average score of 510 in 2002. The average score of Virginia seniors on the mathematics portion of the test rose to 510, also a four-point increase over the performance of the class of 2002. Virginia’s average scores for 2003 compare with national averages of 507 on the verbal portion and 519 on the mathematics portion of the SAT-I.

Data in the report show that during the past several years, the state’s level of funding for education has increased. Local funding for public education has also increased. Additional data show that approximately 83 percent of Virginia’s current teaching force meet the criteria for “highly qualified” teachers under the "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001."

Results from state and national test show that while Virginia’s students are performing well, there remains a persistent and troubling achievement gap among groups of students. In addition, the Adequate Yearly Progress (under the federal "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001") shows that fifty-five percent of Virginia’s 1,822 public schools met the complex federal definition for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and 18 of the 132 school divisions met the requirements. Virginia as a whole did not make AYP.

In addition to the state and national test results, Virginia’s Academic Review Team findings substantiate that schools rated Accredited with Warning need assistance to establish systems for collecting and analyzing data on a regular basis and to use those analyses for evaluating and implementing program that help students achieve and teachers teach more effectively.

As required by the Code, the report contains a section that lists the school divisions reporting noncompliance with the Standards of Quality. A total of 23 divisions reported noncompliance with one or more requirements of the Standards of Quality for the 2002-03 school year. The school divisions are listed under each area of noncompliance. The area of noncompliance most frequently cited in "Standard 3: Accreditation, other standards and evaluation". With a few exceptions, however, school divisions are progressing well toward having all schools rated fully accredited by the 2007-08 school year.

The Code also requires a report on the accreditation of public schools. More than three-quarters of Virginia's schools are fully accredited for the 2003-2004 academic year, based on the achievement of students during 2002-03 on Standards of Learning tests. Students in 78 percent, or 1,414, of the commonwealth's 1,823 schools met or exceeded the standard for full accreditation. Last year, 65 percent, or 1,181 schools met the standard. Also required by the Code is a listing of the Virginia’s public schools rated "Accredited with Warning" for 2002-03. The list of schools rated "Accredited with Warning" are listed in the appendix.

A major component of this year’s annual report is the complete listing of Board of Education’s recommendations for changes and additions to the Standards of Quality. In June 2003, when the Board of Education unanimously adopted changes and additions to the Standards of Quality, which will be presented to the 2004 General Assembly. The prescribed changes, with an estimated fiscal impact of $323.8 million in state funds for FY 2004, provide for the following:

• One full-time principal for every elementary school;
• One full-time assistant principal for every 400 students;
• Additional resource teachers in Art, Music, and Physical Education;
• Reducing Speech-Language Pathologist caseload to 60 students;
• Two technology positions per 1,000 students;
• Planning period for secondary teachers;
• Additional resources for prevention, intervention, and remediation;
• Additional reading specialists; and
• Technical and editorial changes.

In addition to the prescribed changes to the Standards of Quality, the Standards of Quality budget is re-benchmarked for the next biennium in the summer of each odd- numbered year and is projected to increase state costs for public education by approximately $525.1 million in the 2004-2006 biennium.

The report lists a brief description of some of the key programs and initiatives currently under way that address the needs of our public schools. The report closes with a brief description of some of the major challenges that must be addressed in the coming months. Among the most pressing challenges are the following:

• The Board of Education will work closely with the Governor and members of the General Assembly and will provide any assistance necessary in the deliberations by the Governor and the General Assembly regarding the prescribed revisions and the re-benchmarking of the Standards of Quality.

• The gap in the achievement of white and black students, limited English proficient students, and students with disabilities.

• An estimated $10.4 million in additional state funds during the next biennium is needed to establish a data collection and reporting system capable of meeting the annual demands of NCLB.

• The Board of Education must ensure that many of the provisions of the federal "No Child Left Behind Act" are met in order to meet the requirements and retain the funding for these programs.

• The Board of Education is concerned that schools and divisions receive the technical assistance they need to monitored student progress on the Standards of Learning tests for verified credit required to earn a high school diploma.

• State funding for the elementary and middle school portion of the Web-based Standards of Learning Testing initiative is needed. Virginia must redouble efforts to attract and retain a high quality work force, especially in light of the new "No Child Left Behind" requirements for highly qualified teachers in every core classroom.

Note to the Reader: The Board of Education’s Annual Report on the Conditions and Needs of the Public Schools in Virginia is intended to be read along with the Board of Education’s "Technology Plan for Virginia". The state plan is an organized, comprehensive, coordinated approach to the use of technology in teaching and learning environments. It provides the framework for the evaluation of programs and services, and guides a process for technology program development.