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What Virginia Educators Need to Know About the VDOE’s Revised Standards of Accreditation

What Virginia Educators Need to Know About the VDOE’s Revised Standards of Accreditation

Virginia educators and students have been no strangers to change this year—in conjunction with implementing new requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has introduced its Revised Standards of Accreditation. This updated accountability system, for which 2018—19 is the transitional year of implementation, means significant changes in graduation requirements, testing processes, and school accreditation.

The VDOE has released plenty of great information and resources to support educators through the transition, but we know your time is already stretched. We’ve done the legwork and summarized the key points to understand about Virginia’s Revised Standards of Accreditation.

What’s the Case for the Revised Standards of Accreditation?

When Virginia’s original Standards of Learning (SOL) program was first implemented in the 1990s, students in the state were scoring below average on national achievement tests. Administrators realized that there was not standard instruction occurring across the state, leading to inequitable access to high quality education. The original SOLs established minimum content standards, and the now ubiquitous assessments as a tool to validate student achievement, determine school performance and accreditation, identify low-performing schools, and communicate information about school performance to Virginia parents to help them make important decisions.

In plenty of aspects, this original program worked—Virginia schools and students have made significant progress in achievement as compared to nationwide peers. However, with its focus on testing and aggregate scores, the current system doesn’t recognize a lot of the progress that is being made—ultimately perpetuating achievement gaps and making it difficult for struggling schools to retain staff and make improvements. Additionally, although the format of school hasn’t changed significantly in several decades, the work world has changed immensely. To be successful, students need soft skills, not just content knowledge. However, with the focus on test prep the original SOLs instigated, Virginia educators don’t have time in the school day to work on these critical employability skills. The Revised Standards of Accreditation seek to address both of these challenges.

Watch this video from VDOE to learn more.

Revised Standards of Accreditation: Profile of a Virginia Graduate

The Profile of a Virginia Graduate is a new set of graduation requirements being implemented with the Revised Standards of Accreditation and taking effect for this fall’s freshman class (2018) and later. First mandated by the Virginia legislature in the 2016, the Profile was created based on extensive input from the business community, postsecondary administrators, parents, teachers, students, and other stakeholders, and seeks to help students understand and prepare for life after high school. The Profile lays out these four areas that Virginia graduates should be able to demonstrate competency in:

  • Content knowledge like that currently being measured by SOL exams
  • Workplace or ‘soft’ skills
  • Community and civic responsibility including proper conduct and an understanding of public roles
  • Career exploration and planning.

These five areas emphasize skills the VDOE refers to as the ‘5 C’s’: critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, collaboration, and citizenship. These skills are the most important attributes that employers look for in new hires and lay a foundation for success after high school. To support this new approach to instruction, the VDOE has lowered the number of verified credits (those with an SOL exam) required for both standard and advanced studies diplomas to five so that students can take advantage of more flexible, career-focused learning options. They are also introducing more nontraditional assessment options, including performance assessments for history, social science, and writing, and requiring more opportunities for career exposure and experiences for students throughout grades K—12.

Recognizing the scale of these changes, the VDOE is giving school divisions time to make the transition, with updated graduation requirements based on the Profile of a Virginia Graduate effective only for this fall (2018) freshman class and beyond.   In addition, there’s upwards of $1 million in professional development grant funding for schools and educators to support the transition.

Watch this video from VDOE to learn more.

Revised Standards of Accreditation: Continuous Improvement for All Schools

From an assessment and accountability standpoint, the Revised Standards of Accreditation aim to provide a more comprehensive picture of school quality, placing the focus on continuous improvement instead of aggregate test scores. This new approach will help address achievement gaps that the original SOL program unintentionally perpetuated by recognizing student growth instead of solely considering proficiency.

To achieve this growth-based system, the VDOE is introducing new school quality indicators at both the elementary/middle school and high school level. At the elementary and middle level, schools will  continue to be measured on student SOL achievement, but a growth component will be added in both English and math. However, achievement gaps in English and math for different student groups including English language learners (ELLs), students with disabilities, racial/ethnic groups, and economically disadvantaged students will now also be considered, as will each school’s chronic absentee rate. At the high school level, schools will also continue to be measured on student SOL achievement with the added English and math growth component. New components being measured at the high school level include a graduation and completion index, dropout rate, a new college and career readiness index, and chronic absenteeism.

Schools will be rated on performance levels for each indicator using the following schema:

  • Level 1 – at or above standard OR adequate improvement from level two
  • Level 2 – near standard OR adequate improvement from level three
  • Level 3 – below standard OR Level 2 for three consecutive years

Based on these performance levels, schools will continue to receive an accreditation rating from the VDOE. However, unlike the previous system, denial of accreditation will never be time based in relation to student achievement—schools will only be denied accreditation if they fail to implement required corrective action plans. The accreditation system is as follows:

  • Accredited – all school quality indicators at level 1 or 2
  • Accredited with conditions – one or more school quality indicators at level 3
  • Accreditation Denied – failure to implement required corrective action plan

The VDOE is treating the current school year as a transition year for the Revised Standards of Accreditation, allowing schools to be accredited based on either this new system or the old one depending on which is more beneficial for the specific school. Beginning with the 2019-20 school year, all schools will be accredited based on the new system.

Watch this video from VDOE to learn more.

Ready to take a deeper dive into Virginia’s Revised Standards of Accreditation? Check out these video testimonials from educators across the Commonwealth on how the new program is impacting student growth, comprehensive accountability, achievement gaps, chronic absenteeism, and deeper learning. Or, check out this round up of School Year Planning Resources for Virginia Administrators!