SJR 57: Commission on Educational Accountability

November 14, 2002

At its November 14, 2002, meeting, the Commission on Educational Accountability received testimony from representatives of the Department and Board of Education regarding the Governor's Partnership for Achieving Successful Schools (PASS) initiative, the implementation of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act in the Commonwealth, an update on Standards of Learning Assessments and implementation of the Standards of Accreditation, teacher shortage issues, and universal, voluntary programs for four-year-olds.


Data indicate that, with appropriate curriculum alignment, students of all backgrounds can meet educational goals and improve performance on the Standards of Learning (SOL) assessments. In 1998, the first year of the SOL assessment administration, 39 schools (two percent) of Virginia public schools achieved "fully accredited" status. In 2001, that number increased to 731, or 40 percent, with 558 schools (30 percent) meeting state progress benchmarks. However, also in 2001, 117 schools (seven percent) remained "accredited with warning"; 34 of these are Title I schools (those with a high percentage of students eligible for the free and reduced price lunch program) receiving warnings in English or mathematics, or both, for the second consecutive year. Curriculum misalignment plagued 90 percent of the schools accredited with warning; academic review teams observed that 75 percent of the warned schools do not used student achievement data to make instructional decisions.

The PASS initiative partners 26 of the 34 Title I schools facing federal sanctions under NCLB—including optional student transfers—with schools of similar demographics to assist in building teacher capacity and to promote curriculum alignment. The PASS initiative is designed to increase student achievement as well as school capacity to maintain this achievement, engage volunteers and businesses as partners in education, and encourage parents to "provide essential support in the home."

Four intervention models guide the PASS program. Model I addresses 83 warned schools; these will receive an enhanced academic review. More intensive intervention at Model II targets 26 PASS Priority schools; these schools are partnered with schools of similar demographics for assistance. Model III addresses four schools: two each in Petersburg and Richmond; a full-time assistance team comprised of a principal and two teachers will aid these schools. Finally, Model IV focuses on division-wide intervention in Petersburg, including four PASS priority schools. PASS is supported by federal NCLB and private funds, as well as some money from the State Department of Education.


Virginia's consolidated plan for implementing the federal statute was submitted to the U.S. Department of Education to secure funding of a total of $275 million for 2002–2003, representing a 22 percent increase. The plan includes Virginia's definition of the requisite Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and starting points.

A hallmark of the federal act is its required annual math and reading testing for all students in grades three through eight. Because the Commonwealth already uses the SOL assessments in grades three, five, and eight, new tests are only needed for grades four, six, and seven. It is anticipated that existing end-of-course tests will satisfy the act's high school testing requirement. Annual testing includes students with limited English proficiency (LEP); however, scores for these students will not be incorporated in the AYP for three years.

Adequate Yearly Progress measures performance at the school, division, and state levels in reading, mathematics, and graduation and attendance rates. "Starting points" for these areas will be based on 2001–2002 data, with yearly objectives increasing for all, with the goal of 100 percent, with the exception of attendance rates, in 2013–2014. To address the achievement gap, the act requires all student groups—students with disabilities, economic disadvantage, LEP, and minorities—to meet these objectives. Schools must disaggregate data to confirm this requirement.

The 34 Title I schools receiving the accredited with warning status are identified as "needing improvement" under NCLB; these schools must offer transfers to students this school year. As of September 2002, nine school divisions had received 373 transfer requests; schools in other divisions receiving these requests are not compelled to accept the transfers. If limited transfer spaces are available, the accepting schools are to enroll the poorest-performing students. If transfers are impossible, supplemental services may be provided for the affected students.

The federal act also cited "highly qualified teachers and paraprofessionals," with the 2005–2006 goal of all teachers in the core academic subjects deemed "highly qualified"; under Board of Education regulations, this would mean all teachers would hold full state licensure and be teaching in the field for which they are endorsed. Annual report cards on school performance and teacher quality will indicate percentages of classes not taught by "highly qualified" teachers, teachers with provisional credentials, disaggregated student achievement data, graduation and attendance rates, and the number and names of schools identified for improvement. The Department of Education is planning web-based report cards for the state, divisions, and schools.

A state action plan, to be developed by a Board of Education committee, will facilitate implementation of the reading skill requirements (Reading First) set forth in NCLB. The committee will examine current reading instruction, teacher training, funding, and best practices. The board's Reading First grant application includes teacher training, screening and diagnostic assessments, and scientifically based reading programs and materials. The anticipated $16.9 million grant will support competitive sub-grants, with $13.5 million and $3.38 million used at the individual school and state levels, respectively.

SOL Tests

After five years of SOL assessments, state scores have dramatically improved (see Table 1). In 1998, 55 percent of third graders passed the English assessment; in 2002, that percentage grew to 72 percent—a 17 percent gain. Similarly, the scores of African-American students increased by 22 percent; however, the overall passing rate for these third graders was 55 percent—still well below that of the overall group.

Table 1
Percentages of Students, by Ethnicity, Passing SOL Tests: 1998 and 2002

Grade 3

% Passing

% Passing






Am. Indian/Alaskan Native




Asian/Pacific Islander
















Ethnicity Unknown




Gains in mathematics scores were generally more dramatic overall than those for reading at the various grade levels. Algebra I scores statewide improved from a 40 percent passing rate in 1998 to a 78 percent passing rate in 2002. Significantly, the passing rates for African-American students improved from 20 percent in 1998 to 64 percent in 2002, representing great progress in closing the achievement gap. Gains in passing rates are consistent with improved performance on SAT tests by Virginia's graduating seniors. In 1997, the state average verbal score was 506; in 2002, the verbal score average was 510. Math scores increased from a state average of 497 in 1997 to 506 in 2002.

Results of the 2002 SOL assessments placed 1,175 schools (64 percent) in the fully accredited category. Provisionally Accredited/Meets State Standards and Provisionally Accredited/Needs Improvement claimed 257 schools (14 percent) and 312 schools (17 percent), respectively. A total of 85 schools (five percent) fell 20 or more percentage points below the annual progress benchmarks; these schools are accredited with warning.

Teacher Shortage

Various teacher shortage issues raised by SJR 75 (2002) were referred to the commission, which learned that 132 school divisions responded to the department's 2001–2002 annual survey addressing teacher supply and demand issues. Required by legislation enacted in 2001 (HB 1589), the annual survey is to "identify critical shortages of teachers and administrative personnel by geographic area, by school division, or by subject matter." The responding school divisions (some of which responded only to selected survey questions) indicated a total of 94,236 teachers, administrators, and other instructional personnel in full time equivalent positions (FTEs); teachers comprised 88,609 of this total. The survey indicated that 4,136 classroom teaching positions are either unfilled or held by persons without the appropriate endorsements.

The number of reported shortages has nearly tripled since 1999; the number of unendorsed personnel largely influenced this increase. Critical shortage areas include special education, earth science, mathematics, and foreign languages. One school division alone accounted for nearly half of all reported shortages, with 2,018 positions either unfilled or held by unendorsed teachers.

"Critical shortages" are identified as either the top 10 subject matter shortages or as those vacancies for which a school division receives three or fewer qualified applicants.

Top 10 Shortage Areas, 2001–2002

Special Education, preK–12*
Reading Specialist (masters degree program)
Foreign Language (Spanish preK–12)*
Science (Earth Science, Chemistry)
Middle Grades, 6–8*
Library Media, preK–12
Music Education, preK–12*
Technology Education

*Aggregated endorsements (vocational education NOT aggregated); based on 43 teaching and administrative areas.
Virginia Department of Education

Virginia will need an estimated 7,500 new teachers annually. The primary routes to licensure typically yield about 4,500 new teachers each year. In the two years following the enactment of legislation allowing teacher retirees to return to teaching, 54 such retirees have re-entered the profession, all in one of three critical shortage areas: special education, mathematics, or science.


Also assigned to the commission for consideration were the issues raised by SJR 13 regarding universal, voluntary programs for four-year olds. In 1994, the Commission on Equity in Public Education recommended the creation of state-funded preschool programs for unserved, at-risk four-year-olds. The 1995 Omnibus Education Act (HB 2542) and the concurrent Appropriation Act supported this concept; the 1995–96 budget provided $10.3 million to address 30 percent of pupils not currently served by federal initiatives such as Head Start or Title I. Funding has increased in recent years, expanding to over $31 million in 1996–98 to address 60 percent of the unserved population, and to $38.6 million in 2002–2004. The state share is $5,400 per child.

Localities receiving grants of state funds must propose programs that include "quality preschool education," meeting specific curriculum, staffing, assessment, and other requirements; parental involvement; health services; social services; and transportation. Programs may be operated by public schools or community-based organizations.

In 2002-2003, 97 of 137 localities were eligible for this funding, with 75 of these participating; 7,311 children were eligible for the initiative. The 22 eligible but nonparticipating divisions may have declined to seek funding for a variety of reasons, such as inability to provide the local match, insufficient space, or minimal numbers of eligible students.


The Hon. Emmett W. Hanger, Jr.

For information, contact:

Kathleen G. Harris
Division of Legislative Services


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