The Virginia Board of Education prescribed revisions to the Standards of Quality for the commonwealth’s public schools at its Oct. 21 business meeting.
The Standards of Quality describe the foundational instructional programs and support services all schools must provide and drive approximately 85 percent of state funding for local school divisions. The Constitution of Virginia requires the Board of Education to prescribe Standards of Quality for the public schools of Virginia, subject to revision only by the General Assembly.
The 2021 prescriptions build upon the board’s work during the 2019 review cycle and represent evidence-based proposals to create a stronger system of support for students, teachers and support staff, and are designed to align additional state resources with areas of need.
“The Board of Education has again prescribed a strong set of research-driven Standards of Quality prescriptions that, if implemented, will address systemic inequities, help mitigate the impact of poverty on learning and improve outcomes for all Virginia students,” Board of Education President Daniel Gecker said following the meeting. “As support continues to build throughout the commonwealth for these prescribed Standards, we are hopeful that the General Assembly will adopt the policies embedded in them and make the necessary investments to strengthen Virginia’s public education system for all students.”
The 11 prescribed revisions and estimated biennial costs, approved by the Board of Education during its October business meeting are:
- Enhanced At-Risk Add-On — Consolidates the current At-Risk Add-On as well as the state Prevention, Intervention and Remediation programs into a single, expanded fund that is distributed to divisions for instructional interventions based on their concentrations of students in poverty. It also includes language directing school boards to equitably distribute experienced, effective teachers and other personnel among all schools, and prohibits the clustering of ineffective teachers in any school or group of schools. ($87.5 million)
- Teacher Leader and Mentor Programs — Establishes a new Teacher Leader program and expands the Teacher Mentor program. ($229.9 million)
- Reading Specialists — Sets a minimum staffing ratio for reading specialists in grades K-5 determined by the number of students failing third-grade Standards of Learning reading assessments. ($77.9 million)
- English Learner Teachers — Sets a scaled staffing ratio based on proficiency level of students and the instructional staff required to support these students. ($30 million)
- Principal Mentorship — Establishes a statewide principal mentorship program. ($2.4 million)
- Work-Based Learning Coordinators — Provides regional coordinators to support work-based learning and the implementation of the Profile of a Virginia Graduate. ($2.4 million)
- Elementary School Principals — Requires a full-time principal for every elementary school, regardless of enrollment. ($19.1 million)
- Assistant Principals — Sets a ratio of one full-time assistant principal for each 400 students. ($154.3 million)
- Class Size Reduction and Experienced Teachers for K-3 — Moves the state K-3 class size reduction program from the Appropriation Act to the SOQ. (No state cost)
- Specialized Student Support Personnel — Establishes a ratio of four specialized student support personnel per 1,000 students for school nurses, social workers, psychologists, and other licensed health and behavioral positions. ($102.5 million)
- School Counselors — Establishes a ratio of one school counselor per 250 students. ($106.4 million)
Using the 2019 SOQ prescriptions as its starting point, the Board of Education’s Committee on the Standards of Quality began the 2021 SOQ review process in June. Subsequent meetings in July, September and this month provided a forum for continued discussion and public engagement on the needs of the commonwealth’s public schools. Except for adjusting for SOQ changes made since 2019 and a few technical changes, the SOQ Committee recommended that the Board of Education reassert its commitment to its 2019 SOQ prescriptions.
“Since the last review cycle two years ago, legislation aligned with the board’s recommendations improved ratios for school counselors and English learner teachers, established a specialized student support personnel category, removed staffing flexibility, and expanded at-risk add-on funding,” Gecker said. “We are grateful for the progress made to date, however none of the board’s 2019 prescriptions have been fully implemented.”
The newly prescribed SOQ revisions — and legislation necessary to enact the new standards — will be communicated to Gov. Ralph Northam and the 2022 General Assembly, along with budget estimates required to support the new requirements and staffing ratios.