RD543 - 2017 Annual Report on the Condition and Needs of Public Schools In Virginia – November 2017

Executive Summary:

Education plays a vital role in determining how someone will spend his or her adult life and creates opportunities that can lead to higher earnings, better health, and a longer life. By the same token, the long-term social and financial cost of educational failure is high. A fair and inclusive system that makes the advantages of education available to all is one of the most powerful levers to achieve equity in our society. Every student deserves an education that prepares him or her to be a lifelong learner and to succeed in a fast-paced, ever-changing global society.

The 2017 Annual Report on the Condition and Needs of the Public Schools in Virginia presents the:

• Achievement of students and schools;
• Condition of public education;
• Priorities and goals of the Board of Education; and
• Recommendations for revising the Standards of Quality (SOQ) to support continued improvement.

The Board of Education’s intent is to create a quality system of public education that prepares all students for success, for realization of personal goals, and for responsible contributions to the quality of civic life in our state. In order to create strong and effective schools and school divisions, the Board of Education provides leadership and develops policies to improve student achievement, without regard to race, gender, ethnicity, disability, family background, family income, or geographic location, and prepare students to succeed in postsecondary education and the workplace, and to become engaged and enlightened citizens.

With its mission in mind, the Board has dedicated much of its work in 2017 to revising the Regulations Establishing Standards for Accrediting Public Schools in Virginia (Standards of Accreditation), which are the regulations setting the expectations for education programs, graduation requirements, and school effectiveness. These comprehensive revisions include the development of the Profile of a Virginia Graduate and reforms to school accreditation.

The Profile describes the knowledge, skills, competencies, and experiences students should attain during their K-12 education to make them “life-ready," and prepared to succeed in the evolving economy. The Profile articulates four broad areas that are key to preparing students for life after high school – content knowledge, workplace skills, community engagement and civic responsibility, and career exploration. It also includes increased career exposure, exploration, and planning beginning in the elementary grades. In the high school grades, there is an emphasis on increased opportunities for internships, and work and service-based learning experiences to achieve workplace and citizenship skills.

As part of the Profile, the Board proposed changes to Virginia’s graduation requirements to provide more flexibility for student choice of courses and reduce Standards of Learning (SOL) testing. For the standard diploma, the number of required verified credits is reduced from 6 to 5 and for an advanced diploma, the number of verified credits is reduced from 9 to 5. A student will need to earn one verified credit in mathematics, science, social studies, and two in English – one verified credit in reading and one in writing. Currently, credits are verified through a SOL test or Board-approved substitute assessment. The Profile further articulates the importance of the 5 Cs – critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, communication, and citizenship. The approved changes provide for verification of student mastery of academic content through a balanced system of assessments, including authentic performance assessments. The new graduation requirements go into effect for the entering ninth grade class of 2018-2019.

In addition to creating the Profile and amending graduation requirements, the Board proposed amendments to the Standards of Accreditation to reflect changes to Virginia’s accountability system – how school quality is measured, how schools are accredited, how schools needing improvement are supported, and how information about schools is communicated to the public. Through a matrix approach which includes multiple indicators, Virginia’s new accreditation system will: (1) provide a comprehensive picture of school quality; (2) drive continuous improvement for all schools; and (3) identify areas of technical assistance and school improvement resources from the Virginia Department of Education.

Throughout the first part of the year, the Board reviewed potential school quality indicators, which include student academic outcomes and other factors correlated with student learning. Specific indicators designated by the Board for accreditation include:

• Academic achievement for all students in English (reading and writing), mathematics, and science as measured through board-approved assessments, including measures of student growth in English (reading), mathematics, and English Learner progress;

• Academic achievement gaps in English (reading and writing) and mathematics for designated reporting groups, as determined through the performance of each reporting group against the state standard;

• Graduation and school progress for schools with a graduating class as measured by the Graduation Completion Index;

• Dropout rates in schools with a graduating class;

• Student participation and engagement as measured by chronic absenteeism in schools; and

• College, career, and civic readiness in schools with a graduating class, to be effective with the graduating class of 2022.

Each school will be held accountable for attainment on each of the school quality indicators adopted by the Board for accreditation, based on performance benchmarks. Performance benchmarks measure actual performance or improvement or decline in performance over time, or a combination of the two, for each school quality indicator. Based on achievement and school improvement, schools and divisions will receive differential levels of oversight and support from the Virginia Department of Education to ensure continuous improvement toward the goal of a quality education for all students. The Board approved the final stage of the proposed revisions to the Regulations Establishing Standards for Accrediting Public Schools in Virginia in November, 2017.

In addition to revising the Standards of Accreditation, the Board worked extensively on developing Virginia’s state plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA). ESSA provides increased flexibility to states in developing and implementing, within federal guidelines, long term goals and interim measures of progress to identify schools for support and improvement. Virginia’s state plan was drafted to meet the federal requirements and minimize the occurrences of schools being identified for federal support and improvement and not being identified for state support under the amended system of accreditation. Virginia’s system of accountability incorporates federal requirements but is much broader and more comprehensive, using multiple school quality indicators. Federal accountability requirements can be viewed as a subset of overall accountability in Virginia. The Board approved the state plan for the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act in July, 2017.

While most Virginia schools continue to show overall student academic growth, the Board recognizes the constitutional and shared responsibility to ensure that all children in the Commonwealth, regardless of their circumstances, have access to a quality education that prepares them for a successful, healthy, and fulfilling life. To reach this goal, based on feedback from public hearings and written correspondence, the Board established the following priorities through its Comprehensive Plan: 2018-2023:

• To promote equitable access to high-quality, effective learning environments for all students;

• To advance policies that increase the number of candidates entering the teaching profession and encourage and support the recruitment, development, and retention of well-prepared and skilled teachers and school leaders; and

• To ensure successful implementation of the Profile of a Virginia Graduate and the accountability system for school quality as embodied in the revisions to the Standards of Accreditation.

Addressing conditions that affect student learning and well-being requires a continued investment of resources, as recommended in the revisions to the Standards of Quality (SOQ) articulated in this report. Addressing these needs will also require partnerships between the Board of Education, the General Assembly, the Governor, local school boards and divisions, educators, families, community organizations, institutions of higher education, and business industries.