- Virginia does a commendable job of creating a unified accountability system with coherence between its long-term goals, indicators, and identification criteria for low-performing schools, with a strong emphasis on academic indicators.
- The state’s aim of creating an accountability system that recognizes schools with students making progress toward proficiency, as well as those where students are already meeting grade-level expectations is a worthwhile one. It also places particular emphasis on closing gaps in achievement and growth between each subgroup and all students by 2024.
- In addition, Virginia stands apart for identifying high schools based on low graduation rates for all students, as well as subgroups, and the state’s exit criteria for targeted support schools require sustained gains for subgroups based on meeting the state’s interim targets, making these goals meaningful.
- Virginia’s plan has a number of areas for improvement. The state does not indicate how it will provide a clear picture of school quality across its indicators to parents and the public, either through a dashboard of performance measures or overall school rating, and only appears to report which schools are identified for support.
- Without a clear reporting mechanism, student performance on each metric will not be understandable, clear, or transparent, and schools may not be able to understand why they were identified for improvement or what they need to do to show demonstrable gains.
- Virginia’s key accountability indicator is an amalgamation of three measures— achievement, growth, and English language proficiency—which the state calls the “combined rate.” Because of the combined rate, the plan does not include stand-alone goals or an indicator tied to meeting grade-level expectations. And because Virginia uses the combined rate to measure student performance and identify schools, its limitations cascade throughout its accountability and school improvement systems.
- Further, Virginia’s long-term goals, while laudable for expecting closure of achievement gaps, are uneven in their ambition and rigor, expecting little to no improvement from many groups of students, including the “all students” category, over time. Many subgroups have already met Virginia’s goals, and the state could define a more compelling vision for student success toward college and career readiness.
- Virginia’s plan also lacks any indication of the kinds of interventions or evidence-based practices it will use to support its low-performing schools. There are no clear principles for school turnaround, guidance or requirements for evidence-based activities, or theory of action underlying its school improvement processes, particularly for schools that fail to improve over time.