P. O. BOX 2120

October 20, 2000


TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: Jo Lynne DeMary
Superintendent of Public Instruction
SUBJECT: Action Requirements for Schools Accredited with Warning

Section A of 8 VAC 20-131-310 of the Regulations Establishing Standards for Accrediting Public Schools in Virginia requires that the Department of Education develop an academic review process and a monitoring plan to assist schools rated accredited with warning. Please know that it is the intent of the Board, and certainly the Department of Education, to assist schools that are accredited with warning through the academic review process.

As you know, schools that are accredited with warning based on the 1999-2000 scores have pass rates on the SOL tests that are 20 or more percentage points below any of the provisional accreditation benchmarks set forth in the standards. In many cases this means that two out of three children are failing the tests. These situations warrant immediate and decisive attention if this pattern of failure for young people is to be corrected. The Board has not only established a system for accrediting schools, it also is committed to establishing systems and processes for helping schools that are most in need of assistance.

While we have not finalized the school academic review process as required in the standards and funded by the General Assembly, we are close to doing so with the help of our colleagues in the field. At each school we envision a process that would involve one or two educators reviewing preliminary documentation, conducting a two- to three-day site visit, and preparing a final report. The site visitors will be working with the school principal and teachers to look at critical success factors such as instructional and intervention strategies, staff development efforts, use of time and scheduling, data analysis strategies, and curriculum alignment and pacing in the areas of warning. It is perceived that these persons will provide a fresh set of eyes to assist the administration in looking more closely at the needs of these schools.

Section B of 8 VAC 20-131-310 indicates that schools accredited with warning in English or mathematics are expected to adopt an instructional method that has a proven track record of success in raising student achievement in those areas. This requirement seems to be the most logical approach to helping these schools. Again, the academic review process is designed to assist schools in making decisions about the most appropriate instructional methods to adopt. The authority regarding the choice of methods rests with the school and school divisions.

We will obviously involve local educators in the identification of these research-based methods beginning with the ones we have shared through the Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration Program. We already have more than 40 schools in Virginia implementing these models, which have been carefully reviewed and approved based on proven methods that can make a difference in SOL performance. Once again, schools may choose models not on the Board’s recommended list based on a proven track record in either reading or math. The Board would want to be notified of these models so that they could consider them for the recommended list in order that other schools could also benefit.

These models take time to organize and implement and should be included in the school improvement planning which is developed and implemented following the receipt of the rating and the results of the academic review. Some of these models are more costly to implement than others. All sources of federal and state funding should be considered for these models. While school improvement is a journey that requires encouragement and flexibility, time is of the essence for the students in these struggling schools.

Staff members at the Department look forward to working with you and your staff to move all of Virginia’s schools that are accredited with warning to new levels of student achievement.

If you have questions, please contact the office of accreditation at (804) 786-9421.