COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
P. O. BOX 2120
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA 23218-2120
SUPTS. MEMO. NO. 2
July 24, 1998

INTERPRETIVE

TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: Paul D. Stapleton
Superintendent of Public Instruction
SUBJECT: Accreditation Issues 

 
This memorandum clarifies three issues related to the Regulations
Establishing Standards for Accrediting Public Schools in Virginia
adopted by the Board of Education in September 1997: 1) application of
the new graduation requirements; 2) the removal of grades for credit-
bearing courses taken in middle school; and 3) waivers of the
standards.

GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS

A.  Course and Units of Credit Requirements

The new course and units of credit requirements for graduation
outlined in the accrediting standards take effect with the ninth-grade
class of 1998-99 (the graduating class of 2002).  These requirements
also apply to students who 1) are repeating the ninth grade, and 2)
are classified as ungraded because of failure to pass all parts of the
Literacy Passport Test (LPT), but otherwise would be classified as
ninth-graders.

Previous versions of the standards included a provision that
"Graduation requirements for students shall be those in effect at the
time the student entered the ninth grade."  The new standards do not
contain such a provision.  Issues related to the promotion and
retention of students, at any grade level, are governed by local
school board policies.  There is no statewide policy governing these
practices.  In addition, grade-level classification is governed by
local policy with the exception of those students who continue to be
required to pass the Literacy Passport Test (LPT) to be classified as
ninth-graders or above.

B.  Verified Credit Requirements

Verified units of credit requirements as outlined in the accrediting
standards take effect beginning with the ninth-grade class of 2000-01
(the graduating class of 2004).  The following exceptions should be
noted:

     Students who were in grade nine in school year 1999-00 and
     are retained in grade nine (second-time ninth-graders in
     2000-01) will not be held to the requirement of verified
     units of credit, but will continue with the LPT requirement
     for graduation.  Similarly, any student in grade nine when
     the LPT graduation requirement was in effect but was
     retained in such a manner as to "fail back" into the
     verified credit cohort of students will continue with the
     LPT graduation requirement.  Students classified as ungraded
     because of failure to pass all parts of the LPT, but who
     would otherwise be classified as ninth-grade or above,
     should be treated in the same manner as the "fail back"
     students regarding graduation requirements.

Guidance regarding the phase-out of the LPT is provided in
INFORMATIONAL SUPTS. MEMO. NO. 68 dated May 8, 1998.

PURGING OF MIDDLE SCHOOL GRADES

A number of questions have been raised about the following language
which is found in 8 VAC 20-131-90 D of the standards:

     In any high school credit-bearing course taken in middle
     school, parents may request that grades be omitted from the
     student's transcript and the student not earn high school
     credit for the course.  Notice of this provision must be
     provided to parents with a deadline and format for making
     such a request.

The standard allows a middle school student to have a high school
credit course grade removed from his or her transcript.  It was
presumed that the student had gone through the entire course and taken
any related end-of-course SOL test before having a grade removed. 
Otherwise, there would be no grade to remove from the record.

This is different from the process where local school divisions
implement procedures for dropping courses or changing students'
schedules during the school year.

Localities are to determine the procedures for handling requests and
removing a grade from the student's record.  These procedures should
not allow the student to circumvent the SOL testing requirements. 
Localities also should determine whether or not the student must
repeat the course if the grade is purged.  Students may not earn
credit for a course based solely on passing a related end-of-course
SOL test.  Meeting the objectives of the course is implied along with
receiving the requisite number of instructional hours.  Students who
pass a related end-of-course SOL test will not be required to retake
the test to earn verified credit if they are required to repeat a
course in which the grade has been purged from the student's record.

It is recommended that the policy governing this process stipulate
that it be completed prior to the beginning of the fall term of the
next school year.

WAIVERS OF THE STANDARDS

The accrediting standards contain provisions that would allow school
divisions to request waivers to certain standards.  The Board of
Education has established the following policies and procedures
governing the conditions upon which school divisions may apply for
approval of such waivers: 

1.   Standard School Year and School Day (8 VAC 20-131-150)

     This regulation requires that schools operate a minimum of 180
     instructional days or 990 instructional hours per school year. 
     The regulation requires a minimum of 54 hours of instruction per
     day in grades 1-12 and a minimum of 3 hours per day for
     kindergarten.

     School boards may request approval of an alternative plan to meet
     these minimums; however, no plan that reduces these requirements
     can be approved.  Local boards do not have to seek approval to
     exceed the requirements of the standard.

2.   Procedures for Certifying Accreditation Eligibility 
     (8 VAC 20-131-290 D relating to Experimental and Innovative
     Programs)

     This regulation allows school boards to apply for approval of
     experimental or innovative programs that are "not consistent with
     the accrediting standards or other regulations of the Board." 
     The Board may grant approval of such programs for up to five
     years; however, the regulations prohibit the Board from granting
     waivers to requests that do not meet the requirements of 8 VAC-20-
     131-30 - Student Achievement Expectations, 8 VAC 20-131-50 -
     Requirements for Graduation, 8 VAC 20-131-70 - Program of
     Instruction and Learning Objectives, and/or 8 VAC 20-131-280
     through 340 - School Accreditation.

     The Board has adopted the following definitions for experimental
     and innovative programs:

          "An experimental program shall be a program which is
          operated under controlled circumstances and which is
          designed to test and to establish, by objective
          measures, the positive cognitive effect of an
          educational theory."

          "An innovative program shall be a program shown to
          produce a positive educational effect but which does
          not meet standard operating or procedural
          requirements."

3.   Waivers - Generally (8 VAC 20-131-330)

     Prior to the 1997 revisions, the standards included waiver
     provisions only for alternative staffing plan requests,
     alternative schedules, and experimental/innovative programs. 
     Such requests were required to be submitted to the Department of
     Education for review.  The new standards include language that
     allows waivers of any of the provisions except those related to
     student academic achievement.

An application form has been developed for school divisions to use to
apply for waivers under any of the above provisions.  The application
is attached.

Requests for waivers must be submitted at least 90 days prior to the
implementation of any proposed program or activity for which a waiver
is needed.  The Board will review applications at regularly scheduled
meetings.  Two reviews are normally required, but the Board may waive
the first review and approve or disapprove requests on the first
reading.  The Board typically does not meet in August or December so
it is important to allow sufficient lead time between the submission
of the request and the anticipated implementation date.

I hope these interpretations are helpful as you prepare for the
1998-99 school year.  If you have questions, please contact Charles W.
Finley at (804) 225-2747, or by e-mail to cfinley@pen.k12.va.us.


PDS/cwf

Attachment:    A hard of this memo and its attachments 
               will be sent to the superintendent's office.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

ATTACHMENT TO
INTERPRETIVE SUPTS. MEMO. NO. 2
July 24, 1998

SA.020  5/98 (Revised)

                        COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
                           BOARD OF EDUCATION
                           RICHMOND, VIRGINIA

          REQUEST FOR  WAIVER OF CERTAIN ACCREDITING STANDARDS

Regulations Establishing Standards for Accrediting Public Schools in 
Virginia, (8 VAC 20-131-10 et. seq.) set the minimum standards public
schools must meet to be accredited by the Board of Education.  
Accreditation of public schools is required by the Standards of Quality
(22.1-253.13:1 et.  seq.). The annual accrediting cycle for public
schools is July 1 through June 30.

This cover sheet, with the supporting documentation, must be submitted
to the Department of Education for review and recommendation to the
Board at least 90 days prior to the beginning of an accrediting cycle
or the proposed implementation of the program or activity that precipi-
tates the request for the waiver.  The types of waivers available and
the corresponding section of the standards are indicated below.  Please
feel free to attach additional sheets or information deemed appropriate.


SCHOOL DIVISION                                                                                                                                                                   

TITLE OF PROGRAM/ACTIVITY                                                                                                                                              

TYPE OF WAIVER REQUESTED:

     [    ]  Approval of an Alternative to the Standard School
             Year and School Day (8 VAC 20-131-150)

     [    ]  Approval of an Experimental Program (8 VAC 20-131-290 D)

     [    ]  Approval of an Innovative Program (8 VAC 20-131-290 D)

     [    ]  Approval of a Waiver of Other Provision(s) of the Standards
             (8 VAC 20-131-330)

SCHOOL(S) INVOLVED IN THE PROPOSED PROGRAM/ACTIVITY                                                                                     







______________________________        __________________________________
        Date Approved                               Signature
 by the Local School Board            Chairman of the Local School Board

______________________________        __________________________________
       Submission Date                              Signature
                                            Division Superintendent

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

SA.020 5/98 (Revised) Page 2

SCHOOL DIVISION                                                                                                                                                                   

TITLE OF PROGRAM/ACTIVITY                                                                                                                                              


IF THE PROGRAM IS EXPERIMENTAL OR INNOVATIVE, EXPLAIN WHY.












IF THE PROGRAM IS EXPERIMENTAL, INCLUDE INFORMATION THAT EXPLAINS WHY THERE IS REASON TO
EXPECT THAT THE PROGRAM WILL WORK.













DESCRIBE THE RATIONALE FOR AND THE OBJECTIVES OF THE REQUEST FOR A WAIVER.














DESCRIBE THE ANTICIPATED OUTCOMES OF THE PROGRAM.







TITLE OF PROGRAM/ACTIVITY                                                                                                                                              



DESCRIBE THE PROCEDURES THAT WILL BE USED TO EVALUATE THE
PROGRAM/ACTIVITY'S EFFECTIVENESS (Include information that includes
measurable goals, objectives, and student academic achievement that
will be expected as a result of the implementation of the program/
activity).












Number of Students Involved in the Program                                                                                                                            

What is the anticipated length of the program?                                                                                                                         


LIST THE REGULATIONS FROM WHICH YOU REQUIRE WAIVERS IN ORDER TO OPERATE THE PROGRAM OR
ACTIVITY AND A STATEMENT INDICATING WHY RELEASE FROM THE REGULATION IS NECESSARY.

























Questions should be directed to Charles W. Finley, Principal Specialist
for Policy Analysis, Department of Education at (804) 225-2747 or by
e-mail to cfinley@pen.k12.va.us.  This application and supporting
documentation must be sent to:

                  Superintendent of Public Instruction
                         Department of Education
                             P. O. Box 2120
                          Richmond, VA 23218-2120