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    State board will revisit mathematics achievement gaps

    The State Board of Education will revisit its annual measurable objectives for mathematics achievement Sept. 27 per the request David M. Foster, the board’s president.

    The State Board set certain No Child Left Behind mandates to be waived in July, which meant Virginia schools and school divisions will no longer have to meet the legislation’s benchmarks.

    The benchmarks that have been waived include reading, mathematics and the federal law that mandates all students to achieve grade-level proficiency by 2014.

    “The time line for reviewing Virginia’s request necessitated both the Board of Education and USED approving a methodology for setting annual objectives for student subgroups before results from the rigorous new mathematics Standards of Learning tests were available,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia Wright said in a release. “Now that we know the impact of the 2011-2012 tests on the mathematics annual measurable objectives, U.S. Department of Education, Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright, Secretary of Education Laura Fornash and I agree that the board should revisit the methodology in order to set more aggressive annual goals for raising subgroup achievement and closing achievement gaps.”

    The Virginia State Board of Education’s application for a waiver for certain provisions under No Child Left Behind was approved by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan June 29.

    “Virginia schools and school divisions can now focus their energy and resources on implementing the state Board of Education’s rigorous new content standards and assessments without contending with outdated and often counter-productive federal requirements and rules,” Foster said in a release. “The commonwealth will continue to hold schools accountable for closing achievement gaps but schools won’t be subject to a system of increasingly unrealistic annual objectives.”

    The waiver allows the state Board of Education to establish goals for increasing student achievement and the achievement of students in demographic subgroups. The waiver also sets up annual benchmarks with the goal of reducing the failure rate in reading and mathematics by 50 percent within six years. According to the No Child Left Behind legislation, passed in 2001, it requires all students, regardless of circumstance, disability or achievement level, to demonstrate grade-level proficiency in reading and mathematics by 2014.

    Virginia schools will no longer receive annual Adequate Yearly Progress ratings, the release said. With the newly-approved waiver, information of schools meeting or not meeting the new benchmarks will now be reported separately in August. The Virginia Department of Education will report on low-performing schools and identify them as “priority” and “focus” schools, the release said. They will also recognize high performing schools as “reward” schools.

    “This new federal accountability model is more complicated than the Board of Education believes is necessary, but it is definitely a step in the right direction,” Virginia Board of Education President David M. Foster said in a release. “Looking ahead, it is my hope that Congress will at last revise NCLB and allow Virginia to attack achievement gaps within the context of the SOL program, free from unwarranted and intrusive federal rules.”
    According to the Virginia Board of Education, priority schools will be identified based on overall student achievement, which includes graduation rates in high schools.

    Both priority and focus schools will be subject to state-approved and monitored school-improvement interventions, the board says. Priority schools will have to have a state-approved “turnaround partner” to help the school meet state and federal requirements. Focus schools will have to employ a state-approved coach to help develop, implement and monitor strategies to improve student performance, the board stated in a release.

    The waiver also requires each school division to implement the performance and evaluation standards for teachers and principals that were approved by the Board of Education last year. According to the standard, 40 percent of teacher or principal evaluations is to be based on student academic progress. The board also said schools that are unprepared to implement the new performance standards for the 2012-2013 school year may have a corrective plan stating how they will be implemented in the 2013-2014 school year.

    The Board’s accreditation standards do not vary depending on the demographics of schools, the release said. The same achievement levels on SOL tests in each subject are required for a school to earn a rating of being fully accredited regardless of race or ethnicity of students, the release stated.

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