RICHMOND — Few schools in Virginia have lost full state accreditation this year despite significant learning losses during the pandemic revealed by standardized testing, according to published data Thursday by the Virginia Department of Education.
Data shows that the number of fully accredited schools in Virginia increased from 92% in 2019-2020 to 89% for the 2022-23 school year. The number of unaccredited schools has increased from 7% to 10%.
James Lane, former Superintendent of Public Instruction under Governor Ralph Northam’s administration, renounced accreditation ratings for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years due to the pandemic.
In Virginia’s accreditation system, schools are categorized into one of three levels: meeting expectations, making sufficient improvements, and falling short of standards. Schools labeled below standards are subject to review by the Department of Education and must develop a corrective action plan.
Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin said accreditation results released Thursday do not reflect the “catastrophic learning loss and growing achievement gaps” facing Virginia students.
“This flawed accountability system fails to provide a clear picture of our schools’ academic success and progress to parents, teachers and local school divisions,” Youngkin said in a statement late Thursday. “Virginia must have the most transparent and accountable education system in the country and these accreditation ratings demonstrate the imperative for change.”
Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow also criticized the effectiveness of state accreditation standards in identifying schools where students are struggling to meet proficiency. Education officials said a lack of in-person learning was the reason for declining scores in reading, writing, math, science, history and social studies. revealed in data released last month.
“Accreditation is a key driver of state interventions and local efforts to improve student outcomes, and frankly, the school ratings we are releasing today fail to capture the magnitude of the crisis facing our schools and our students,” Balow said.
But James Fedderman, president of the Virginia Education Association, criticized Youngkin for what he described as efforts to “politicize” and “discredit” schools to advance his agenda. Fedderman said Virginia’s credentialing system worked and accurately represented “one of the best public education systems in the country.”
“These results show that more of our students need extra help to reach their potential, and we urge the governor to direct the state board of education and the General Assembly to focus their energies on resolving these issues, not on creating a new assessment. system that validates its partisan political goals,” Fedderman said.
Balow said state data on school quality and accreditation ratings are “skewed” by factors such as the Board of Education’s changes to the 2020-21 reading proficiency standards, which, hid the impact of the pandemic and school closures, she said.
“It masks the catastrophic learning losses experienced by our most vulnerable students,” she said.
The Board of Education is reviewing the standards that outline Virginia’s expectations for student learning in K-12 public schools.
Virginia measures student achievement based on standardized test scores, as well as student achievement gaps, dropout rates, absenteeism, and college, career, and life readiness civic.
In a report entitled “Failing State, Not ‘Failing Schools'” published last August, the Virginia Education Association said that for schools to meet state accreditation criteria, they need adequate funding, recruitment and retention.
VEA has identified a high concentration of inexperienced teachers in unaccredited schools. Unaccredited schools also had teacher vacancy rates twice as high as fully accredited schools.
Data on teaching vacancies for the 2021-2022 school year are expected in the fall. Virginia will have vacancy data for 2022-23 next fall.
VEA said investments in unaccredited schools are needed to support student success, such as paying competitive salaries to educators and staff and providing more aid to high-poverty schools and tutoring positions.
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