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VDOE Announces Support for Federally Identified Schools

First set of federally identified schools since State Board of Education increased expectations to help identify and close achievement gaps.

Post Date:02/23/2024 6:53 PM

For Immediate Release: February 23, 2024

RICHMOND — Today, the Virginia Department of Education announced that 247 schools have been federally identified as schools in need of support based on Virginia’s federal accountability system under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The increase in federally identified schools is driven by the Virginia Board of Education’s September 2022 adoption of requirements to close achievement gaps for Virginia’s most at-risk students, which reflects the Board’s commitment to higher expectations for schools across the Commonwealth.

“Today’s announcement reinforces what the State Board of Education told Virginians in 2022 – our children suffered significant learning loss that began before the pandemic, but was exacerbated from extended school closures, and masked by lowered expectations defined in Virginia’s federal accountability and state accreditation frameworks,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Coons. “We have worked closely with school divisions to develop plans to reverse these trends, and today’s announcement shows the continued importance of the steps we have taken to help our students catch up and get ahead. We’re also focused on making sure that all our parents, teachers and students can rise to the challenge of higher expectations, greater transparency, and more focused instruction. Our role is to is provide them the support to do so.”

“The Board has taken deliberate actions since 2022 to ensure students, parents, and other community stakeholders are provided clear and understandable information about how well our schools are preparing students for the future beyond the walls of our classrooms,” said State Board of Education President Grace Turner Creasey. “We knew that increasing expectations and confronting chronic absenteeism head-on would yield some not-so-comfortable information about the state of some of our schools, but to best serve every student and every school in the Commonwealth, we must first identify struggling schools and then provide targeted supports to get every school and student back on track for success.”

Under the State Board’s more rigorous expectations now incorporated into Virginia’s federal accountability framework, 247 schools were identified as needing support and improvement. Conversely, Virginia’s state accreditation system reports 208 schools needing support. This confusing mismatch in federal and state criteria of school performance reinforces the importance of the State Board of Education’s work to ensure state accreditation ratings clearly and accurately communicate the performance of every school.

Federal law requires Virginia to identify schools needing support and improvement in three categories using the state’s federal accountability system. The Virginia Board of Education approves a Consolidated State Plan (“CSP”) defining how schools are identified under the federal accountability system. The latest CSP included the Board’s elevation of (i) learning loss recovery across all student groups, (ii) increased expectations of performance targets in reading and math to reflect increased academic expectations for all student groups, and (iii) full inclusion of chronic absenteeism as measures of school performance.

Alongside the existing investment, focus and partnership of the VDOE with school divisions on their learning loss recovery efforts, divisions with federally identified schools will also receive additional support from the VDOE Office of School Quality. Using a newly developed School Support Framework, the VDOE will assist and support divisions and schools in academics, staffing, professional learning, and school climate. The Office of School Quality will provide technical assistance to every division with schools identified as not meeting expectations so that they can conduct a needs assessment, select evidence-based interventions, and develop a support plan. These supports are being made available to federally identified schools starting immediately and will be on-going as the VDOE, divisions, and schools work to make sure every student receives an exceptional education and meets the high expectations set for them.

In addition to the introduction of learning loss as a school performance criteria, this year’s federal identifications also reflect the Virginia Board of Education’s action to raise the performance targets in reading and mathematics to reflect increased academic expectations for all student groups.  These new higher performance expectations for all students continue increasing annually through 2027-2028 school year.

Last September, to combat learning loss, Governor Youngkin and the General Assembly included $418 million in the state budget for school divisions to provide high dosage academic tutoring, accelerate the preparations for improved instruction via the Virginia Literacy Act (VLA), and combat chronic absenteeism. The $418 million provides flexible funding for school divisions to continue their learning loss recovery efforts for three years.

VDOE has partnered with school divisions to create "ALL In implementation plans to ensure spending is best positioned to improve student achievement. With every school division in the commonwealth having created its ALL In plan, efforts to reverse pandemic learning loss are underway across Virginia. The VDOE has also provided tutoring practice platforms to school divisions to help reinforce the in-person tutoring sessions taking place in school.

This year’s federal identifications also reflect the Virginia Board of Education’s decision to fully include chronic absenteeism measure of progress as an identification criterion for schools. Chronic absenteeism, measured as students missing 18 or more days of school for any reason, increased to 17% of all students in 2022-2023 from a 9% pre-pandemic level in 2018-2019. Chronic absenteeism has proven to have a significant impact on math and reading performance.  Governor Youngkin has appointed a Chronic Absenteeism Task Force to assist school divisions in developing solutions to many of the on-going causes of chronic absenteeism. 

A full list of federally identified Virginia schools can be found HERE.

More information and explanation on the federal identification process and its identification criteria is available HERE.


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