Virginia Board of Education Prescribes 11 Revisions to SOQ for Public Schools

By Linda Cicoira

The Virginia Board of Education mandated 11 revisions to the quality standards for public schools at a recent meeting.

The Virginia Constitution requires the panel to prescribe standards for basic education programs and support services for schools, subject to review only by the General Assembly. These policies generate approximately 85 percent of state funding for local school divisions.

The revisions include improving the at-risk add-on and state prevention, intervention and remediation programs into one distributed fund for educational interventions based on concentrations of students living in poverty. It includes language that directs school boards to fairly distribute experienced and effective teachers and other staff among all schools, and prohibits the grouping of ineffective teachers into any school or group of schools.

A review was ordered to establish a new teacher mentoring program and to expand the teacher mentorship program. Another policy set a minimum staffing ratio for reading specialists in grades K-5, determined by the number of students who fail standard third-grade reading assessments. There has been a review to establish a staggered staffing ratio based on the skill level of the students and the teaching staff required to support those students.

The prescription also establishes a statewide senior mentoring program, provides regional coordinators to support workplace learning, implements the profile of a Virginia graduate, and establishes a ratio of a school counselor for 250 students.

The revision requires a full-time principal for each primary school, regardless of enrollment; sets a ratio of one full-time vice-principal for 400 students; moves the state’s class size reduction program K-3 from the Appropriation Act to quality standards, and establishes a ratio of four specialist student support staff per 1,000 students for school nurses, school nurses, social workers, psychologists and other certified health and behavioral positions.

The new revisions and the legislation needed to enact them will be provided to Governor Ralph Northam and the 2022 General Assembly, along with the budget estimates needed to support the plans, according to an announcement.

Board Chairman Daniel Gecker said the panel “once again prescribed a strong set of research-based prescriptions … which, if implemented, will address systemic inequalities, help alleviate impact of poverty on learning and will improve outcomes for all Virginia students “.

“As support continues to grow … for these prescribed standards, we hope 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,” Gecker added.

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