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### Provide Input on Virginia Board of Education’s Recently Approved School Rating System

The Virginia Board of Education recently endorsed a novel approach to evaluating schools, introducing a system that categorizes schools based on various indicators, potentially assigning them a letter grade, a star rating, or another form of classification. This new system will consider factors like mastery, which pertains to student proficiency, and readiness across all grade levels. Readiness specifically assesses a student’s preparedness for the subsequent academic phase or postsecondary endeavors, such as college. Additionally, readiness scores will take into account chronic absenteeism rates. Moreover, growth, reflecting year-to-year progress, will serve as an evaluative factor for elementary and middle schools, while high schools will also be assessed based on graduation rates.

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is actively seeking input on this system through feedback sessions. In the Hampton Roads area, a session is scheduled from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Torggler Fine Arts Center at Christopher Newport University in Newport News. Public comments can be submitted until May 27.

The approval of this new framework by the board, with a 7-1 vote and one dissenting vote from Anne Holton, has sparked discussions. Holton expressed concerns about the implications of adopting an A-F grading system, suggesting that alternative grading methods, such as using stars, would yield similar outcomes. She cautioned against the potential negative impact of labeling schools, emphasizing the risk of exacerbating school segregation and leaving marginalized students behind.

Contrary to Holton’s viewpoint, other board members defended the new system, highlighting its potential to enhance transparency and accountability. Andy Rotherham emphasized the importance of truth-telling and the positive impact of holding schools accountable through a summative system. He also suggested that addressing concerns about school segregation could involve exploring solutions like school choice and eliminating attendance zones.

Dale Sturdifen, another board member, supported the ranking system, emphasizing the importance of setting high standards for students. He dismissed the notion that the new system discriminates against certain student groups, asserting that maintaining high standards benefits all students.

Advocates of the new system emphasized that its primary objective is not to penalize schools but to identify those in need of additional support. The board also established specific weights for each indicator, with varying allocations for mastery, growth, and readiness across different grade levels. Holton, however, opposed the distribution of weights, advocating for a more balanced consideration of growth alongside mastery.

The regulations governing the new system allow for flexibility, enabling the board to modify indicators or weights in the future. This initiative to revamp the accreditation system began last summer, following a recommendation to divide Virginia’s existing program into separate accountability and accreditation systems. Data collection for the new system is slated to commence in the 2024-2025 school year, with the first reports expected in summer 2025.