The State Board of Education has released the 2013 Annual Report on the Condition and Needs of Public Schools in Virginia. The report is quite lengthy and you may access it at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/boe/reports/annual_reports/2013.pdf.
One of the categories listed in the report is item III, Critical Needs of the Public Schools in Virginia. As you are aware, public schools in the Commonwealth face numerous challenges for learning, finances, program availability and facilities. Listed below are some of the issues identified in the report. The over reaching issues identified by the State Board and which are certainly recognized by all building administrators needing to be addressed are:
Persistent achievement gaps among groups of students – Family income, race, disabilities, language proficiency, and other demographic factors remain too strong an indicator of passing rates on tests, high school graduationn rates, and other measures of academic success.
Chronically underperforming schools – 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.
Professionalism of the teaching profession – Attracting the best and the brightest individuals into the teaching profession, supporting their continued professional development, boosting morale, and retaining those who excel is of critical importance to student achievement.
In addition, the Board has identified other factors related to student success in schools in Virginia:
1.Over the last five years, the accreditation bar has been raised through the introduction of more rigorous curriculum standards and challenging new assessments that test students’ problem-solving and critical-thinking skills as well as their content knowledge. In addition, the benchmark pass rates required for full accreditation have increased, and high schools must meet goals for improving graduation rates. The focus of the SOL program has shifted to the ambitious but vital goal of college and career readiness for all students. Temporary declines in SOL scores and accreditation ratings are signs that the Commonwealth is expecting more, not that students are learning less. The Board, school divisions, and schools need to remain focused on raising the rigor of Virginia’s academic standards to reflect college and career readiness while educating the public about the impact of such changes.
2.Continued investment of resources is integral to improving student performance, especially given the high expectations reflected in increasingly rigorous SOL tests and efforts to close achievement gaps among demographic groups. Many local school systems face declining resources as a result of the recession and find it difficult to serve high percentages of students who are from low-income backgrounds, or who have limited English proficiency. While resources are declining in many localities, expectations continue to increase for all students.
3. The Board will monitor the implementation and effects of new policies, including growth indicators and the A-F school grading formula, to assure the policies are fair, transparent, and accurate. Many Board members expressed concern that the necessary data was not available during the timeline provided by the General Assembly for the Board to fully consider the impact of the A-F grading system, given the implementation of rigorous new SOL mathematics tests in 2011-2012 and science and reading tests in 2012-2013. The Board will monitor and reevaluate the policies to consider unintended consequences, and refine such policies as needed.
There are more points made in this section of the report and you may access the remainder of the content at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/boe/reports/annual_reports/2013.pdf