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July 10, 2017

Shaping the Future of Virginia’s K-12 Education — July Public Hearings Provide Opportunity for You to Get Involved

In 2015, the President and Congress approved a new federal law governing K-12 public education across the country. The law – called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – offers states greater flexibility in measuring accountability and implementing strategies to lift up struggling schools. This shift means that decisions by state leaders are crucial in determining the success of the new law.

Just last month, state leaders released their proposal for Virginia’s implementation of ESSA and right now they are taking your input on that plan. A series of public hearings are being held throughout the summer to garner feedback from communities. There are two remaining hearings before the Board of Education has their final review of the plan on July 27. Virginia will submit its plan to the US Department of Education by September 18, 2017.

This is the opportunity for educators, students, families, and community members across the state to provide input and help shape the future of public education in Virginia.

So what’s in Virginia’s plan?

The federal ESSA guidelines require measurement in four academic areas – academic achievement, academic progress or growth, graduation rate, and progress for English-language learners (ELLs) towards proficiency. States select specific benchmarks for each to be included for accountability purposes. Among its measurements, Virginia will continue to use Standards of Learning (SOL) tests, specifically reading and math, to track academic achievement and progress. ESSA requires that states set their own long-term goals and interim measures, but they must be ambitious.

Virginia’s focus is to close the achievement gap between groups of students. For the 2015-2016 year, 80 percent of all students met or exceeded proficient scores for both reading and math; however, English-learners, economically disadvantaged students, and students with disabilities are among groups where only 46-70 percent of students met or exceeded proficient scores. In its ESSA plan, Virginia has set long-term goals of 70 and 75 percent of all groups to meet or exceed proficient scores in math and reading, respectively, by the 2023-2024 school year.

ESSA puts greater emphasis on growth in English-language proficiency (ELP). By adding ELP to the academic indicators, there is bound to be more attention put on the resources that these students and their teachers will receive. Virginia points to its “Plan to Ensure Excellent Educators for All Students” and its related efforts to mitigate the shortage of teachers with the English as a Second Language (ESL) endorsement.

Long-term goals for growth in ELP have not been set. Virginia uses ACCESS for ELLs to assess ELP, which was updated to 2.0 for the 2015-2016 school year. The state indicates that it is waiting for the second year of data from the updated assessment before setting long-term goals or interim measures.

Going beyond test scores, ESSA requires states to choose at least one non-academic indicator to measure school quality or student success. Virginia has selected chronic absenteeism, which they define as a student missing 10 percent or more of the school year for any reason, including suspensions, to measure school quality. Being significantly absent from the classroom is linked to lower test scores and enthusiasm for learning, feelings of isolation, and negative social interactions. It is also an early indicator of dropping out of high school.

Low-performing Title I schools will be identified as needing “comprehensive and targeted support” primarily based on academic indicators; the chronic absenteeism indicator will be used only in select cases. Identification for this additional support will use a calculation based on measures of growth and proficiency in math, reading, and English-language assessments. The school quality indicator of chronic absenteeism will come into effect if schools tie in regard to the academic indicators. In instances of a tie, the school with a greater percentage of chronic absenteeism will be identified for additional support. Virginia’s ESSA plan indicates that any school identified for comprehensive or targeted support will have to implement interventions to improve their scores, graduation rates, and chronic absenteeism, if applicable.

Virginia’s plan can have a lasting impact on education, and you can have an impact on the plan. Attend one of the remaining public hearings to provide feedback on Virginia’s plan to ensure that every student succeeds. If you are unable to physically attend, comments are also being accepted at

Sherri Egerton

Chris Duncombe

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