By Linda Cicoira

If taken, the dreaded Standards of Learning tests provided in the 2021-2022 school year, the results would mean nothing to a school’s accreditation rating as the superintendent of Virginia’s Department of Education (VDOE) waived the annual plan Tuesday.

James Lane exercised emergency authority that was granted to him by the General Assembly. Schools will be assigned a rating of “Accreditation Waived,” the same rating assigned for schools for 2020-2021 under a wavier issued in April.

Accreditation ratings are based on performance during the previous school year. School closures in March due to COVID-19 resulted in the cancellation of spring SOL testing. Student performance on SOL tests in English, math, and science are key metrics under the VDOE school accreditation standards.

Without spring 2020 SOL results, there is insufficient data for the VDOE to calculate accreditation ratings for the 2020-2021 school year. And because year-to-year growth in English and growth in mathematics are also accreditation metrics, VDOE won’t have sufficient data to calculate ratings for 2021-2022 either.

Even if students are able to take tests next spring, the department won’t have baseline data from 2019-2020 for measuring growth.

“Waiving annual accreditation for a second year will allow our schools to focus on assessing the impact of the shut down on students, academically and on their social and emotional well-being,” Lane said. “It will also allow school divisions to make decisions about resuming in-person instruction or reverting to virtual learning that prioritize the health of students and staff, without the added pressure of the possible impact on accreditation. If tests are administered during the upcoming school year, the focus should be on evaluating the impact of the pandemic on student learning and establishing a new baseline for measuring student growth.”

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