SJR 385

Commission on Educational Accountability

August 7 , 2001, Richmond

The August 7 meeting of the SJR 385 Commission on Educational Accountability focused on remediation and intervention in the year-round schools model, best practices in education, and test security for the Standards of Learning assessments.

Year-Round Schools

The assistant superintendent for accountability, Virginia Department of Education, described the twofold approval process for year-round public schools in Virginia. Pursuant to the Standards of Accreditation (SOA), individual schools, with local school board approval, may seek a waiver from the Board of Education for "experimental or innovative programs" that may not be consistent with the SOA. The request to the board is to include the program's purpose, objectives, description, and duration; anticipated outcomes; evaluation procedures; numbers of students affected; and "mechanisms for measuring goals, objectives, and student academic achievement." As the SOA define the standard school year as 180 days or 990 instructional hours, year-round schools typically must seek a waiver from this regulation.

The second part of the waiver process is a statutory one, imposed by § 22.1-79.1, requiring school boards to set school calendars to ensure that the first day of student attendance falls after Labor Day. The Board of Education may grant waivers from this requirement for "good cause," which includes, among other things, "experimental or innovative programs" approved by the board pursuant to the SOA procedures.

From an initial six schools in two divisions in 1997, the number of schools offering a year-round initiative grew to 33 for the 2001-02 school year. Situated in 11 divisions, the majority of the initiatives are in elementary schools. The calendars typically use a "45-15" schedule, providing 45 instructional days, followed by a 15-day break used as an "intersession" for remediation or enrichment opportunities. This year, schools seeking continuing approval for these year-round calendars will be required to submit evaluations of their programs to the board.

Schools Approved for Year-round Calendar


Number of Schools

Buena Vista
Fairfax Co.
Henry Co.
Isle of Wight
Newport News
Virginia Beach

       3 (all)

The 2000-01 budget included a $400,000 grants initiative, managed by the Department of Education, for year-round school incentives addressing at-risk students. Approximately $340,000 was granted to 25 schools in 13 divisions; there were 26 applicant schools. Grants were based on covering the state's share of the $5.50 per pupil per intersession day cost ($1 per student per instructional hour, based on a 5.5 hour instructional day). Grant recipients are estimated to be offering a combined 627 intersession days of 501,563 instructional hours to 5,290 at-risk students.

A preliminary review of school report cards for the 23 schools approved for year-round schedules in 2000-2001 indicates that one school improved its performance to fully accredited status and six improved to provisionally accredited/meets state standards. Of the 16 remaining schools, 14 were rated provisionally accredited and two were accredited with warning.

Educators from the Hampton and Danville public schools provided detailed information on the operation of their year-round programs, which have resulted in improved attendance, higher test scores, and approval from parents in both cities.

Best Practices

Reviewing educators' perspectives of practices leading to student success on the SOL assessments was the director of the Governor's Best Practice Center, Region IV, Virginia Department of Education. Having reviewed research and worked with various schools, the staff of the Governor's Best Practices Centers identified 16 effective practices in 26 schools (16 elementary, seven middle, and three high schools) in which high numbers of students qualified for free or reduced price lunch and in which SOL test scores were high.

The study incorporated interviews of teachers, principals and central office personnel and ratings of responses to various questions about the identified practices and related activities within each practice. Identified practices included among most important were assessment, curriculum alignment, curriculum mapping and pacing, data analysis, intervention strategies, leadership, and student motivation. Of these seven, leadership was identified most frequently. The remaining best practices were administrative support, classroom instruction, community and parent support, use of research-based programs, schedule considerations, school-wide focus on test success, staff development, teacher planning accommodations, and use of technology.

SOL Security

The director of assessment and reporting, Virginia Department of Education, provided an overview of SOL test security procedures. Implemented during Literacy Passport Test (LPT) use, test security procedures are designed to ensure that test scores are an accurate reflection of student performance and that no student is "unfairly advantaged" in taking the particular test.

Next Meeting

The commission scheduled its next meeting for September 10, when it expects to examine, among other possible topics, the Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute (CEPI)(VCU) survey regarding the SOL tests, findings of the Academic Review Teams on Schools Accredited with Warning, Virginia Scores on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and HB 2823 (2001), addressing the Educators' Higher Education Opportunity Program.

The Honorable Emmett W. Hanger, Jr., Chairman
Legislative Services contact: Kathleen G. Harris


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