Changes made to school accreditation and graduation requirements in Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia Board of Education has approved changes to standards for school accreditation and graduation requirements.

According to a release, for schools, the revisions to the board’s Standards of Accreditation are designed to encourage continuous improvement for all schools while placing increased emphasis on closing achievement gaps between student groups and providing a more comprehensive view of school quality.

Under the revised standards, schools — beginning in 2018-2019 — would be rated as either “Accredited” or “Accredited with Conditions” based on performance on multiple school quality indicators. New indicators would include progress made by students toward proficiency in English and mathematics, achievement gaps in both subjects, absenteeism and dropout rates. Schools that fail to implement state-required improvement plans could be rated as “Accreditation Denied.”

For students, the revised regulations reduce the number of Standards of Learning tests they need to pass to earn a diploma.

The new standards also implement the “Profile of a Virginia Graduate,” a set of expectations that includes increased emphasis on developing critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, collaboration and citizenship skills, in addition to academic achievement in English, mathematics, science and history.

The new diploma requirements would take effect with students entering the ninth grade next fall (class of 2022). Course requirements for both the Advanced Studies Diploma and the Standard Diploma would remain the same but the number of required verified credits would be reduced to five (one each in English reading, English writing, mathematics, science and history/social science). In addition, schools would be required to provide opportunities for students to learn about career options aligned with their interests in their own communities and elsewhere.

“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 R. Staples said. “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.”