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Committees, procedures outlined in schools’ plan

Friday, December 21, 2012

By SAM JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Patrick County School Board on Wednesday outlined how it will correct lapses revealed by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) investigation of the school division.

The division issued a draft of its Corrective Action Plan (CAP) on each irregularity found by the VDOE. The state had given the division 30 days to issue the plan after it released its draft report on the investigation Nov. 21.

In its statement, the school board addressed the allegations that test scores and grades had been manipulated to inflate graduation rates in 2011-12. “We agree with the VDOE findings that a review of Physical Grade Books showed no evidence of grade tampering, but that added security is needed,” the statement said.

The state required the division to “develop policies and procedures for awarding Certificates of Program Completion as required by state mandates,” the CAP said.

In response, the division stated it would establish a committee to “develop local program completer requirements and procedures needed for students to earn Certificates of Program Completion.” Recommendations from the committee will be forwarded to the school board for approval, the CAP said.

Patrick County High School administrators also will establish a committee to monitor implementation of issuing certificates of completion, the CAP added.

The state also mandated that the division “develop a procedure and practice that will ensure that all graduates have earned the appropriate number of credits and completed the necessary course requirements to receive the appropriate diploma,” the CAP stated.

In response, the division said it plans to keep a record used by the guidance department to verify student progress toward graduation beginning in eighth grade. The board also will “review the possibility of utilizing technology to enable students/parents to compare progress against state and local requirements or individual goals regarding graduation,” the CAP said.

The high school will establish a graduation review committee to meet twice yearly and review the progress of 11th- and 12th-graders, the plan added.

School Superintendent Roger Morris also will appoint a committee of educators and administration representatives to develop a “policy and guidelines” for awarding verified credits following state guidelines, the CAP stated.

The school board will review the recommended policy/guidelines and vote on them, the document added. Once implemented, the high school guidance department, administration and a panel of three high school faculty members will review students eligible for verified credits to determine whether they meet the requirements to issue the credits, the plan stated.

The plan required that the division “revise its policies for issuing a standard unit of credit for graduation based on a minimum 140 clock hours of instruction,” the CAP said. To that end, an attendance policy review committee will be created to “research and develop an attendance policy that will be recommended to the school board,” said the report. High school administrators will establish a student recording attendance procedure to ensure accuracy, it added.

On the issue of teacher licensure and endorsement, the state asked the division to develop an action plan for each teacher identified as being outside the endorsement area to which they are assigned. After initial allegations that seven teachers in the division were not licensed or endorsed in the content areas specific to their assignments, the DOE found that three were teaching outside their content areas.

The CAP said Assistant Superintendent Dean Gilbert will “meet and provide in writing the actions necessary for each teacher to be highly qualified in their teaching assignment.”

Also, the state ordered the school division person in charge of licensure and the administrative assistant will participate in specialized training provided by the DOE Department of Teacher Education and Licensure. To meet the mandate, Gilbert and the licensure administrative assistant will participate in an in-depth question and answer session with VDOE licensure personnel, the CAP said.

The DOE report had found an irregularity in the division’s 2011-12 test data in which a PCHS student was retested twice on a Virginia Standard of Learning (SOL) test the student already had passed.

The state asked the division to provide a “method for anonymously reporting testing issues through the use of an online form” to be checked regularly, the CAP stated. The CAP responded that it would provide a publicly available online form and any reported issues will be investigated and reported to the DOE, the report added.

The division also must develop a consistent testing program “in which training will be provided to all instructional staff in the procedures and practices for testing,” the report said. The school responded that it would develop a training packet for each testing administration and used throughout the division. Training for all instructional staff also will be performed consistently, the CAP said.

The state also mandated that the division institute a procedure for notifying the school testing coordinator about changes in testing accommodations when Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or 504 plans for students with learning disabilities are created or revised. The CAP said such procedures will be developed and a form will be used to report such changes.

The state’s draft report stated that the school system must “update and revise its policy for remediation recovery.” The CAP replied the division will update its policy, the board will adopt it and the division will set up procedures to implement it.

Regarding technology, the state mandated that the division develop procedures for maximizing security in PowerSchool, a web-based student information system; develop a procedure for cross-referencing stored grades and grades in teachers’ gradebooks; ensure all students are assessed and accounted for during SOL tests; and ensure that appropriate staff participate in PowerSchool training. The CAP confirmed that the division will develop policies and administer the necessary training.

Another mandate was that the division “update the expedited retake policy” for SOL testing. The division’s CAP stated it will work with the Virginia School Board Association (VSBA) to adopt an updated policy.

The schools also must ensure compliance with all policies and procedures as outlined in the Standards of Accreditation and the Standards of Quality. The division replied that it would “develop an organizational structure that reflects the current and future needs to ensure compliance.” The CAP also stated that the division would develop a training regimen for staff to ensure they had proper knowledge of those areas.

In general, the CAP stated that the division found its meetings with employees and administrators provided insight into the needs for things such as improvements in communications; “the need for more professionalism to develop a better environment of listening and respect”; team building exercises; and ongoing training in several areas. The CAP also stated that the division has “already started training in some of these areas,” the report said.

Morris said Thursday that the report has been mailed to the VDOE, which will review it and suggest changes, much the way the DOE draft report was sent to the school division for review. Morris said implementation of all the corrective action outlined in the CAP should take six months to a year.

“We have things we have to work on, but that’s OK,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting to where we need to be” to take action on the DOE report.


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