His thoughts —The results weren’t that bad

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, September 28, 2022

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The Department of Education released their 2022-23 School Accreditation summary last week, and on the surface, the results weren’t that bad. Unfortunately, when you look under the hood, and it’s clear that the ratings are papering over serious, long-term problems.

The ratings do not reflect catastrophic learning loss and growing achievement gaps facing Virginia’s students.

Surprisingly, the accreditation of schools has not changed significantly from pre-pandemic levels and last review in 2019-2020, despite significant learning loss.

This broken accountability system fails to provide a clear picture of the academic achievement and progress of our schools to parents, teachers, and local school divisions.

The reason is that as of 2017, the achievement indicators in the state’s accreditation system include a “combined rate,” If a student fails the Standard of Learnings (SOL) test and shows growth, which is defined as improvement in scores, that student is essentially counted along with students who passed the SOL test.

Of Virginia’s 1,830 schools in 2022-2023, 89 percent were fully accredited, 10 percent were accredited with conditions, and the remainder were either on an alternative accreditation program or a new school.

In addition, expectations for passing the Reading test were lowered in 2020. This means more students were proficient and showed growth on the assessment.

Finally, accreditation waivers were granted to 136 schools who would have otherwise been “accredited with conditions” per 2015 legislation, further artificially inflating the accreditations rates.

While the school closures related to the pandemic impacted all students, black students, Hispanic students, students with disabilities, English Learners, and economically disadvantaged students were particularly affected.

The accreditation ratings do not clearly identify these gaps.

Whether it’s the lowering of standards for Math and Reading or complicating the accreditation system so that it fails to produce transparent results, these areas need to be addressed immediately by the State Board of Education.

What’s so controversial about wanting higher standards in our schools?

Del. Tommy Wright can be reached via email at DelTWright@House.Virginia.gov or (804) 698-1061.