RD358 - 2012 Annual Report on the Condition and Needs of Public Schools in Virginia

Executive Summary:
In keeping with our statutory mandate, the 2012 Annual Report on the Condition and Needs of the Public Schools in Virginia details the Board of Education's goals, actions taken in alignment with the goals, and progress towards meeting the goals. The 2012 report is based on goals set by the Board for the 2011-2012 school year, as described in the Board of Education’s Comprehensive Plan: 2011-2016, and results obtained in the 2011-2012 school year. Subsequently, the Board revised its priorities and goals for public education, as articulated in the Board's Comprehensive Plan: 2012-2017, which will be addressed as part of the 2013 annual report. This report also contains information on compliance with the Standards of Quality and the Standards of Accreditation, a report on charter schools in Virginia, and the multidivision online provider report.

Highlights of Student Achievement Gains

The 2011-2012 academic year saw Virginia's public school students make progress in many critical areas. These include:

• Improved Graduation Rates - Eighty-eight percent of the students who entered the ninth grade in the fall of 2008 earned a diploma within four years and of those, more than 55 percent earned an Advanced Studies Diploma. On-time graduation has increased 7.2 percentage points since 2008. The statewide dropout rate fell to 6.5 percent for the class of 2012. State and local efforts to increase graduation rates and reduce dropout rates among minority students continued to show results, as the graduation rate for black students increased 2.4 points (to 82.7 percent), and the graduation rate for Hispanic students increased 1.8 points (to 80.9 percent).

• Superior SAT and ACT Scores - On the SAT college-admissions test, the average reading score for Virginia public school students is 17 points higher than the national average, the average mathematics score is five points higher, and the average writing score is 11 points higher. Virginia public school students in all ethnic groups outperformed their peers nationwide on all three SAT subsections. On the ACT, the state’s public school students achieved a composite score of 22.2, compared with 21.1 for public school graduates nationwide, and participation in ACT testing increased by more than 5 percent. The percentage of Virginia public school students meeting ACT college-readiness benchmarks was six or more points higher than the percentage nationwide.

• Strong SOL Performance - Despite increasingly rigorous Standards of Learning (SOL) and SOL tests, 93 percent of Virginia’s public schools are fully accredited, meeting all state standards for achievement in English, mathematics, history and science, as well as graduation in the case of high schools. One hundred high-performing schools in 20 divisions qualified to receive three-year waivers from annual accreditation by achieving pass rates of 95 percent or higher during 2009-2010 and 2010-2011.

• Gains on National Science Test - The percentage of Virginia eighth graders meeting or exceeding the rigorous national standard for proficiency in science increased significantly in 2011. Forty percent of the Virginia students tested on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science test last year achieved at either the proficient or advanced level, compared with 36 percent in 2009.

Critical Needs for Virginia's Public Schools

Although Virginia has witnessed many gains in student achievement, there are continuing challenges and needs facing K-12 public education in Virginia. These include:

• More Rigorous Standards - Raising the rigor of Virginia’s academic standards to reflect the Board’s focus on college and career readiness, while maintaining public understanding and support as schools strive to meet those higher standards, will be challenging. There may be further declines in accreditation, as schools implement more rigorous SOLs and SOL tests, as evidenced by mathematics this year, which will be followed by English and science during 2012-2013.

• Persistent Achievement Gaps - Virginia, as other states, has a long way to go to eliminate achievement gaps among subgroups of students. Family income, race, and other demographic factors remain too strong an indicator of passing rates on SOL tests, high school graduation rates, and other measures of academic success.

• Chronic Underperformance - A small but significant number of schools remain chronically low-performing by state and federal standards. Improving these schools and better serving the children who attend them will require focus, perseverance, resources, and teamwork.

Continued investment in resources that are integral to improving student performance, closing achievement gaps, and graduating all students college and career ready is critical. This is not simply a matter of putting more money into our schools; rather it is a matter of carefully and thoughtfully focusing all available resources where they can be most successful. During this time of tight budgets at the local, state, and federal levels, policy decisions regarding the allocation of resources - whether time, money, or people - must be focused on proven, effective strategies. Continued improvement will also require the support and participation of the Board's many partners in education.

Assessment of the Extent to Which the Board's Goals are being Met

The Board of Education’s Comprehensive Plan: 2011-2016 defined seven goals and the strategies it will implement to meet its goals. The goals directly address the realities and challenges our public schools face in ensuring all graduates are college and career ready.

The Board of Education is committed to assessing its progress in meeting its goals. The "report card on the Board's performance measures," on page 8 of the report, shows 2011-2012 results, the one year trend, and the three year trend in several key indicators of student performance.