New Accreditation Standards Require Continuous Achievement for all Schools

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) today reported the first school ratings under new state accreditation standards designed to promote continuous achievement in all schools, close achievement gaps and expand accountability beyond overall performance on Standards of Learning tests.

The new standards — which were approved by the state Board of Education last November — also recognize the academic growth of students making significant annual progress toward meeting grade-level expectations in English and mathematics.

In this video: Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane discusses how the commonwealth’s revised school accreditation system will provide a more comprehensive view of school quality and progress and encourage continuous improvement for all schools.

“I am pleased that these ratings show that — in the vast majority of our schools — most students are either meeting or exceeding Virginia’s high standards, or they are on their way toward grade-level proficiency,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said. “But the ratings also reveal that in many schools, there are achievement gaps undetected by the previous accreditation system. Every student in the commonwealth deserves a high-quality educational experience, and we hope that by shining a light on these gaps our schools will continue to develop innovative strategies that result in equitable outcomes for our children.”

“The new system is already helping school divisions focus resources where they are most needed to ensure that all children are receiving a high-quality education,” Board of Education President Daniel A. Gecker said. “Rather than putting a label on a school, we are helping schools and the communities they serve set priorities and plan for continuous improvement.” 

Under the state board’s revised Standards of Accreditation, schools are evaluated on school quality indicators grouped in three categories: academic achievement, achievement gaps, and student engagement and outcomes.  Performance on each indicator is rated at one of the following levels:

  • Level One: Meets or exceeds state standard or sufficient improvement
  • Level Two: Near state standard or sufficient improvement
  • Level Three: Below state standard
  • Too Small: Too few students in school or group to evaluate


The following tables summarize how Virginia’s 1,813 schools open during 2017-2018 performed on each applicable school quality indicator.


Academic Achievement Summary

Indicator Schools at Level One Schools at Level Two Schools at Level Three Too Small
English 1,700 62 50 1
Mathematics 1,725 42 45 1
Science 1,661 36 64 1


 Achievement Gaps Summary

Indicator Schools at Level One Schools at Level Two Schools at Level Three Too Small
English 1,057 644 112 0
Mathematics 982 654 176 1


Student Engagement and Outcomes Summary

Indicator Schools at

Level One

Schools at

Level Two

Schools at

Level Three

Too Small
Chronic Absenteeism 1,600 169 44 0
Dropout Rate (High Schools) 270 30 30 0
Graduation & Completion (High Schools) 302 18 9 1


As a consequence of the school quality indicator ratings released today, 322 schools will undergo academic reviews or implement corrective action plans. This compares with 250 schools identified for similar state-directed or state-guided interventions last year under the commonwealth’s previous accountability standards.


“This new system provides parents and other members of school communities with a clearer understanding of what schools are doing well and where they need to improve,” Secretary of Education Atif Qarni said. “They will be able to look at the online School Quality Profile report for a school and instantly see how the school is performing on each school quality indicator and drill down to more detailed information.”


Every school under the new accreditation regulations — regardless of performance — must develop a multi-year plan to support continuous improvement on each school quality indicator. The revised accreditation standards also require specific local and state actions to improve performance on each indicator, as follows:

  • Level One – School and division continue to monitor the indicator and the school’s multi-year plan for continuous improvement.
  • Level Two – School and division implement essential actions and research-based strategies to improve performance on the indicator to Level One. If at Level Two for overall performance in English, mathematics or science, school must also undergo an academic review conducted by VDOE or under department guidance.
  • Level Three – School undergoes an academic review conducted by VDOE or under its guidance. School and school division – in consultation with VDOE – develop and implement a corrective action plan.


School divisions that do not demonstrate evidence of progress in adopting or implementing corrective action plans for a school or schools with indicators at Level Three will be required to enter into a memorandum of understanding between the local school board and the state Board of Education defining responsibilities and essential actions to improve performance. 


Schools earn one of the following three accreditation ratings based on performance on school quality indicators:

  • Accredited – Schools with all school quality indicators at either Level One or Level Two. In addition, high-performing schools with waivers from annual accreditation authorized by the General Assembly are rated as Accredited. Schools meeting the previous standard for full state accreditation are also rated as Accredited for 2018-2019.
  • Accredited with Conditions – Schools with one or more school quality indicators at Level Three
  • Accreditation Denied – Schools that fail to adopt or fully implement required corrective actions to address Level Three school-quality indicators.


The following table summarizes overall school accreditation ratings for 2018-2019.


State School Accreditation Summary

Accreditation Rating Number of Schools Percentage of Schools
Accredited 1,683 92%
Accredited With Conditions 130 7%
New School 7 <1%
Accreditation Withheld 1 <1%
Total 1,821 100%


The 1,683 schools with an overall rating of Accredited include 147 schools with waivers from annual accreditation based on previous high performance that otherwise would have been rated as Accredited with Conditions. In addition, 34 schools were awarded one-year transitional ratings of Accredited for meeting the previous standard for full state accreditation. These schools also would have been rated as Accredited with Conditions.

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