Commission on Educational Accountability
November 15, 2001, Richmond
Career and Technical Education Update
The Standards of Accreditation (SOA) require that a minimum of 11 course offerings in career and technical education must be available at secondary schools. These courses may be offered at regional centers as well as at the individual schools.
Recent developments in career and technical education include the Board of Education's approval of two diploma seals recognizing exemplary student achievement in career and technical education. The Board of Education Career and Technical Education Seal is earned upon obtaining either a standard or advanced studies diploma, completing a prescribed sequence of courses in a career and technical education concentration or specialization, and maintaining at least a B average in those courses or passing a board-approved industry certification examination or acquiring a professional license in a career and technical education area. Similarly, the Seal of Advanced Mathematics and Technology requires a standard or advanced studies diploma, at least a B average in the requisite mathematics courses and passage of an exam for a board-approved industry certification in information technology, or passage of a board-approved exam granting college-level credit in technology or computer science. The Board of Education approved criteria for the selection and approval of these certifications and licenses for these two seals in September 2000.
Reflecting SOA criteria for the approval of substitute tests for earning verified units of credit, the criteria for approving certifications and licenses require, among other things, that the test must be (i) standardized and graded independently of the enrolling school or school division, (ii) knowledge-based, and (iii) administered on a multistate or international basis. The course of study for the certification or license must prepare the student for an occupation or for college credit in an occupational area that is "technology-driven." To date, approved industry certification examinations total 63, addressing more that 75 different career and technical education courses or combinations.
To facilitate use of industry certifications or licensure for student-selected verified units of credit for high school graduation, the Board of Education approved 63 certification examinations in April 2001. These verified units apply not to the "core" subjects of English, mathematics, science, and history, but to various student-selected tests in technology and other areas. Approved substitute tests for core academic subjects include, among others, International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement tests.
The 2001 Session of the General Assembly had considered SB 1056, which would have authorized the Board of Education to substitute industry certification and state licensure examinations for Standards of Learning (SOL) assessments for the purpose of enhancing the quality of career and technical education and awarding verified units of credit for career and technical education courses, where appropriate. This bill also would have amended Standard 3 of the Standards of Quality to allow the board to provide, in the requirements for the verified units of credit, that appropriate and relevant industry certification or state licensure examinations may be substituted for correlated SOL examinations. Students completing career and technical education programs that are designed to enable them to pass such industry certification examinations or state licensure examinations may be awarded, upon obtaining satisfactory scores on industry certification or licensure examinations, appropriate verified units of credit for one or more career and technical education classes into which relevant SOL for various classes taught at the same level have been integrated. Governor's amendments that would have limited the use of these substitute tests to verified units in electives and not in "core academic areas" were rejected, and the Governor subsequently vetoed the measure.
The transition period for the implementation of verified credits requires students graduating in 2004-2006 to have two verified units of credit in English (reading and writing) and four in any other areas. This "2 x 4" model might allow a student to use as many as four substitute testssuch as industry certificationsin the transition period. Upon full implementation of the verified units, the graduating classes of 2007 and thereafter will be required to earn verified units in specified courses.
The Southern Regional Education Board has rated the Commonwealth as among the nation's leaders in career and technical education efforts. Supporting career and technical education are High Schools That Work (HSTW), an initiative in place at 46 Virginia public schools. Evidencing a probable correlation between HSTW schools and strong SOL assessment performance are the recent accreditation performance data. Of these HSTW schools, eight would be fully accredited, 20 are provisionally accredited/meets state standards, 13 are provisionally accredited/needs improvement, and only five are accredited with a warning. Of these last five, four are new HSTW sites.
Review of HB 2823
Delegate Kathy Byron reviewed HB 2823, which would have established the Educators' Higher Education Opportunity Program, comprised of the voluntary contributions of educators employed on a full-time basis as licensed instructional or administrative personnel in good standing by a public school board in Virginia, to fund savings trust accounts pursuant to the Virginia College Savings Plan. The Board of Education would make an annual contribution to the fund on behalf of eligible educators who have completed five years of full-time employment in a seven-year period. Savings trust account funds could not be disbursed prior to an eligible educator or designee being admitted and enrolled at an eligible institution. The board, in consultation with the board of the Virginia College Savings Plan, must establish regulations addressing (i) minimum amounts of educator contributions to the fund; (ii) amounts of annual board contributions to accounts in which the educator's interest has vested; (iii) changes in employing school boards; (iv) the voluntary participation of local school boards in making contributions to the fund on behalf of employees; and (v) such other matters as it deems necessary for the implementation of the program. The program would expire on July 1, 2006.
Prompting introduction of the measure were teacher recruitment and retention concerns. The program would serve as an employment incentive, not unlike stock options and corporate signing bonuses offered in private sector employment. Teachers and local school divisions, as well as the Commonwealth, would contribute to the program.
K-12 Teaching Profession
Senate Joint Resolution 357, which was not passed by the 2001 Session, would have requested the Joint Task Force on the K-12 Teaching Profession in Virginia, jointly established by SCHEV and the board in fall 2000, to "examine the staffing levels in the teacher education programs in the colleges and universities." Both SCHEV and the department have databases recording various teacher education data, but these databases are not coded to address the concerns raised in SJR 357. The resolution directed the task force to not only "determine the efficacy of increasing the faculties in such educational programs in order to admit additional students" but also to "consider, in this examination, accreditation requirements, funding limitations, institutional policies for salary and space allocation, the current student/faculty ratios, any increases or decreases in enrollment in such programs, and such other issues as it may deem appropriate."
In November, the board and SCHEV will receive recommendations regarding this issue. The commission focused on the effect of early retirements and legislation allowing retirees to return to teaching while retaining retirement benefits, the potential shortage of teachers of education, and the need for a comprehensive approach to teacher reform. Connecticut was cited as a model in its teacher reform efforts, as it now experiences no shortages, high salaries, good student test scores, and increased demand for schools of education. Teachers are employed using term contracts. Re-thinking teacher preparation to reflect board-identified competencies using alternative routes other than current coursework offered by higher education institutions also received commission focus. Ways of recruiting current teachers to enter administrative positions were also cited.
According to a Board of Education survey, an estimated 50 percent of Virginia public school principals will retire in the next five years. Commission members cited the immediate need to prepare as well as retain school administrators. Options noted were cross-training, differentiated staffing, and "hybrid" contracts providing no benefits but offering administrative positions within the school personnel structure.
Multiple Criteria and the SOL
The use of multiple criteria to supplement the Standards of Learning assessments for purposes of school accreditation, graduation requirements, and promotion/retention policies prompted brief discussion of the Literacy Passport Test (LPT), now being phased out, used for many years to assess sixth grade competencies. Passage was required for classification as a ninth grader. Although not initially designed to be a "barrier" test, the LPT became a requirement for graduation as some students required several "re-takes" to obtain passing scores.
Kirk Schroder, commission member and Board of Education president, reported that the Board of Education will examine both HB 2163 (Standards of Accreditation and multiple criteria) and HB 2122 (Graduation requirements), bills forwarded for consideration by the Senate Committee on Education and Health, at its November meeting. Also to be reviewed are the recommendations of the Education Coalition, which includes the Virginia Education Association, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, and other education organizations, and recommendations from the board's Accountability Advisory Committee.
The Education Coalition has endorsed the development of an appeals process for the SOL assessments. President Schroder expressed his personal preference for a local appeals process, consistent with board guidelines, applicable to students during the transition period (graduating classes 2004 through 2006). A sunset provision would prompt revisiting the issue after an implementation period. Such an appeals process might include "blending" coursework grades with SOL scores. Appeals processes are in place in North Carolina, Massachusetts, and other states. Balancing the need for flexibility with the goals of high standards, consistency, and objectivity remains a challenge in creating and implementing test score appeals processes.
Seventy percent or more of Virginia public schools now meet the requirements for full accreditation or for provisional accreditation/meets state standards. A total of 129 schools are accredited with warning. Waiver procedures within the Standards of Accreditation were also briefly noted. Individual accreditation plans are contemplated in the SOA to accommodate "special purpose schools such as regional, special education, alternative, or career and technical schools that serve as the student's school of principal enrollment." (8VAC20-131-280 D). Board guidelines detail the alternative evaluation of these schools.
Briefly cited were the pending reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and its annual testing requirements; the Modified Standard Diploma, created for students with disabilities and requiring no verified units of credit; the creation of a special subcommittee of the House Committee on Education to examine graduation requirements and the use SOL tests to earn verified units of credit; the need to avoid creating a "dual system" of graduation requirements or diploma tracks for disadvantaged students; the challenge of determining alternative, appropriate methods of demonstrating acquired knowledge and skills; and the use of pre-session programs by some school divisions to assist out-of-state transfer students.
The commission made the following recommendations:
1. That the Board of Education, with the assistance of the Department of Education and the Accountability Advisory Committee, continue to examine the use of multiple criteria to supplement the Standards of Learning assessments for purposes of school accreditation, graduation requirements, and promotion/retention policies.
2. That the Commission on Educational Accountability be continued for one additional year.