School is back in session and teachers have their lesson plans set, but everything is about to change - again. The method of measuring the state mandated standards of learning is becoming more rigorous.
Up until this year, the federal government established pass rates for reading and mathematics, under the No Child Left Behind Act. Virginia schools were required to have a percentage of students passing the Standards of Learning Tests, or SOLs, that met or exceeded those standards with the goal of a 100 percent pass rate by 2014.
"That would be like asking United Airlines to have a perfect 100 percent pass rate for landing all its planes in a 10 year period of time," said Bob Grimesey, the superintendent of Orange County Public Schools.
That all changed when Virginia got a waiver from No Child Left Behind and the state got to set its own standards this summer. They're now using Annual Measurable Objectives or AMOs.
The U.S. Department of Education requested a review of the new rates. However, because the government thinks the pass rates are too high, the results were too varied, and the standards allowed for too much of an achievement gap between subgroups.
Part of the problem, the U.S. Department of Education says, is that the results from the new, more rigorous math portion of the SOLs were not available when the state finalized the new AMO standards.
"When applied to the results of the state's more rigorous mathematics assessment, VDOE's (Virginia Department of Education) methodology resulted in AMOs that require similar rates of progress for all subgroups - both those that are further behind and those that are higher achieving," said Deborah S. Delisle, of the U.S. Department of Education, in a letter to Patricia I. Wright, the superintendent of public instruction at the VDOE .
Phil Giaramita, the public affairs and strategic communications officer for Albemarle County Schools said, "One of the things that the state now needs to do is update the cut rates, which is the level at which a student passes or fails an SOL test."
Now, school divisions are waiting on the VODE's decision regarding the new AMOs, and what the new standards will be.
"Fortunately, our mission is broader than just achieving pass rates on standardized tests, and so our business of education continues, while the federal and state governments attempt to get their acts in order," said Grimesey.
The VDOE is expected to release details of the new standards by early October.