Va. Board of Ed. votes to change school accreditation and graduation requirements

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Board of Education has approved revisions to the standards schools must meet for state accreditation and the requirements students must meet to earn a high school diploma, according to a news release.

“I think it’s great progress,” said Norfolk School Board Chairman Rodney Jordan.

Donald Robertson, Virginia Beach Schools’ Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer, told 10 On Your Side, “I’m excited about the changes that have been made.”

“I think it will benefit most if not all school divisions statewide,” said Portsmouth School Board member Cardell Patillo, Jr.

According to a news release from the Virginia Board of Education, “For schools, the revisions to the board’s Standards of Accreditation are designed to encourage continuous improvement for all schools while placing increased emphasis on closing achievement gaps between student groups and providing a more comprehensive view of school quality.”

The release continued: “For students, the revised regulations reduce the number of Standards of Learning tests they need to pass to earn a diploma. The new standards also implement the “Profile of a Virginia Graduate,” a set of expectations that includes increased emphasis on developing critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, collaboration and citizenship skills, in addition to academic achievement in English, mathematics, science and history.”

“I think it’s going to give our teachers and our schools the renewed sense of educating the whole child to ensure that not only can they demonstrate their knowledge through traditional course work but also build those skills they’re going to need to be successful in the new economy,” Robertson said.

Background: State considering school rating system overhaul

Related: More Hampton Roads schools accredited in 2017

“Under these new standards, schools will be rewarded for the success of students who are on a trajectory toward meeting Virginia’s high expectations, even if they are not quite there yet,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples. “This addresses an inequity in our current system which sometimes labels schools serving children in poverty as failing when in fact students are making great strides and showing high growth from one year to the next.”

“We have collectively been advocating for the state to reward performance and to reward progress,” Jordan said

Jordan chairs the Norfolk school board and recently ended his term as Chair of the Tidewater Region for the Virginia School Boards Association.

Patillo now holds the position with the association.

“I believe it will take less strain off because they’re looking at more than just scores but they’re actually looking at growth,” Patillo said.

Related: Virginia Beach schools boast 100% accreditation

Related: Virginia Beach Schools launch ‘Compass to 2020’ plan for student achievement

At least one Hampton Roads division is troubled by the changes.

According to a statement from a division spokeswoman:

“Chesapeake is concerned with the reduction of the SOL tests for verified credits.  If students are not required to take an SOL test, accreditation will not represent the entire student body.”
Kellie Goral
Public Information Officer
Chesapeake Public Schools

Jordan explained: “None of these systems are perfect.” He continued, “I think as long as we’re willing to make sure that they are being used to support student growth and to be willing to make changes as necessary in order to make sure that we are always preparing children for success in the workforce or success in furthering their education I think we’ll be fine.”

According to the release: “Under the revised standards, schools – beginning in 2018-2019 – would be rated as either ‘Accredited’ or ‘Accredited with Conditions’ based on performance on multiple school quality indicators. New indicators would include progress made by students toward proficiency in English and mathematics, achievement gaps in both subjects, absenteeism and dropout rates. Schools that fail to implement state-required improvement plans could be rated as ‘Accreditation Denied.’”

The release continues: “The new diploma requirements would take effect with students entering the ninth grade next fall (class of 2022). Course requirements for both the Advanced Studies Diploma and the Standard Diploma would remain the same but the number of required verified credits would be reduced to five (one each in English reading, English writing, mathematics, science and history/social science). In addition, schools would be required to provide opportunities for students to learn about career options aligned with their interests in their own communities and elsewhere.”


We believe the approved changes to the accountability system are a step in the right direction, where there will now be a clear acknowledgment of student progress and student growth.  We also applaud the recognition that school accreditation will now be multifaceted vs. the assignment of an overall rating of “yes” or “no”. The proposed changes provide for a clearer system of progress monitoring for all involved.
Dr. John Caggiano
Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment
Hampton Schools

The revised school accreditation standards will give the public a more multi-dimensional picture of Newport News public schools and student success by acknowledging students and schools that are making significant strides in achievement.
Michelle Price
Spokeswoman, Newport News Schools

We are pleased with the changes and appreciate the state’s new comprehensive approach to accreditation. We also believe the emphasis on the 5 C’s aligns with the work we are doing in Suffolk Public Schools. The graduation requirement changes will provide students with more flexibility with their courses as they prepare for post-secondary opportunities.
Bethanne Bradshaw
Public Information Officer – Suffolk Public Schools



There will be a final review by the governor and secretary of education, and one last opportunity for the public to submit comments, before the regulations become effective.