Standardized testing will not be used as a metric to measure schools this academic year after Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane waived annual school accreditation for the 2021-2022 school year earlier this week.

Schools will be assigned a rating of “Accreditation Waived,” the same rating assigned schools for 2020-2021 under a waiver issued in April.

“We anticipated it, and we lobbied for it. We’re real pleased that this occurred,” said Halifax County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Lineburg.

Accreditation ratings are based on performance during the previous school year. The statewide closure of schools in March in response to the coronavirus pandemic resulted in the cancellation of spring Standards of Learning testing. Student performance on SOL tests in English, mathematics and science are key metrics under the state Board of Education’s school accreditation standards.

Without spring 2020 SOL results, there is insufficient data for the Virginia Department of Education 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, because even if students are able to take tests next spring, the department won’t have baseline data from 2019-2020 for measuring growth.  

The Halifax County Superintendent is hoping this trend will help deviate school systems in Virginia entirely from standard of learning tests.

He said it has been a model used by the state for most of his career, and he hopes now state officials will “see what a mistake it was.”

According to the Virginia Department of Education, “SOL testing began in 1998 as students in grades 3, 5, 8 and in high school took assessments in reading, writing, mathematics, history and science.”

Looking at what’s ahead with the reopening of schools on the horizon, Lineburg hopes that everyone will eventually be able to see the “silver lining” from this global pandemic.

Moving forward, he said the school system will “always have a good remote learning tool in place, and hopefully, he said, “maybe pivot away from standardized testing.”

When asked about having another metric in place to measure student performance, he said their main focus right now is getting back to school and leaning how to teach in this period of crisis.

In April, Lane appointed a task force comprising division superintendents, testing directors, educators, the vice president of the state Board of Education and representatives of education professional organizations to study the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown on the commonwealth’s school accountability system and make recommendations on accreditation determinations for 2021-2022.

Waiving accreditation until there is sufficient baseline data to measure student growth was one of two options recommended by the task force.

The Virginia Department of Education’s Office of School Quality will continue to support schools implementing improvement plans based on their accreditation ratings for 2019-2020.