Virginia may de-emphasize the weight of standardized test scores in school evaluation starting in the 2018-19 school year.

The Virginia State Board of Education has voted 8-1 to overhaul the school accreditation system, which will now include non-academic measurements and give more weight to year-on-year improvements.

Amanda Williams of the Virginia Gazette reports:

“The new accountability system could make it easier for schools to be given credit for growth, [Assistant Superintendent Scott] Thorpe said.

“While SOL [Standard of Learning] scores and graduation rates are still part of the formula, dropout rates, achievement gaps and chronic absenteeism are “school quality indicators” accounted for in the new guidelines, according to the board-approved draft of the new standards.

“Within each category, a school could be deemed above standard or level one, near standard or level two, or below standard at level three.

“We can meet accreditation with each of these indicators through either hitting a target, or by growing, and that’s really different from the way it is now,” Thorpe said.”

Other important changes in the school accreditation process include new metrics to monitor the performance of various sub-groups in the school system: major ethnic groups, students with learning disabilities, and students for whom English is not a first language.

The new school accreditation criteria are supposed to help create an atmosphere contributing to continuous improvements for all schools and the closing of achievement gaps. Graduation rates, for example, can now bump up accreditation levels. An 88% graduation rate means a level one accreditation for a school but schools whose graduation rate is below 88% can still get to level one if it posts a 2.5% increase in graduation rate from the previous year.

School quality is also affected by absenteeism. Students who miss 18 class days in a typical schoolyear will impact evaluation scores. Virginia wants to limit chronic absentees to less than 15% of all students in the state.

Heightened emphasis will be placed on developing communication, creativity, critical thinking and citizenship skills of students.

The Franklin News-Post reports:

“Under these new standards, schools will be rewarded for the success of students who are on a trajectory toward meeting Virginia’s high expectations, even if they are not quite there yet,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven Staples said in a recent press release. “This addresses an inequity in our current system which sometimes labels schools serving children in poverty as failing when in fact students are making great strides and showing high growth from one year to the next.


“The new requirements would take effect for students entering the ninth grade in the coming fall. Requirements for the advanced studies and standard diplomas would remain the same, but the number of mandatory credits would be reduced.

In addition, schools would become required to provide opportunities for students to learn about career opportunities that directly align with their interest, according to a written statement from the Board of Education.”