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Great Public Schools Criteria for Virginia

Great Public Schools Criteria refers to the seven elements needed for closing the achievement gaps and raising achievement for all students. The seven elements are: (1) readiness to learn, (2) high expectations, (3) quality conditions, (4) qualified staff, (5) accountability, (6) parental involvement, and (7) funding.

Read more below about the Great Public Schools Criteria in Virginia.

Readiness to Learn

Full-day Kindergarten.  Virginia defines kindergarten as 3 hours per day for 540 hours per year. Districts are not required to offer full-day kindergarten and children are not required to attend. Virginia funds full-day kindergarten at the same level as grades 1-12. Source: Education Commission of the States (ECS) Kindergarten Database, 2007

The Virginia Preschool Initiative, established in 1995 distributes state funds to schools and community-based organizations to provide quality preschool programs for at-risk four-year-olds unserved by Head Start. (VDOE) The Virginia Preschool Initiative offers full-day (six hours) early care and education, parent involvement, child health and social services, and transportation to families with four-year-olds at risk of school failure. Specific risk factors for admittance are chosen and identified at the local level. (NIEER) Most programs are operated by public schools and some by community-based organizations. Local coordinating teams include public schools, as well as Head Start, child care, health and social service providers. (ECS)

Even Start Family Literacy. The Virginia Department of Education administers the Even Start Family Literacy program. This is a federally funded program that is designed to improve the academic achievement of young children and their parents, especially in the area of reading.
Even Start Family Literacy is a family-centered program which embraces the whole family as "the student". It provides participating families with an integrated program of early childhood education, adult education and basic skills instruction, parenting education, and interactive literacy activities between parents and their children. All projects have some home-based instruction and provide for the joint participation of parents and children.

Even Start is a state-administered discretionary program. In addition, the United States Department of Education administers direct discretionary grants to federally recognized Indian tribes and tribal organizations, for migratory families, and to the outlying areas.

Virginia has also created Virginia's Foundation Blocks for Early Learning: Standards for Literacy, Mathematics, Science, and History and Social Science. The purpose of this document, then, is to provide early childhood educators a set of minimum standards in literacy, mathematics, science, and history and social science with indicators of success for entering kindergarten based on scientifically based research. The standards reflect a consensus of children's conceptual learning, acquisition of basic knowledge, and participation in meaningful and relevant learning experiences. Alignment to Virginia's Kindergarten Standards of Learning (SOL), to Virginia's Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS), and to the national guide, Teaching Our Youngest, A Guide for Preschool Teachers and Child-Care and Family Providers, produced by the Early Childhood-Head Start Task Force (2002), US Department of Education and US Department of Health and Human Services is evident. (VDOE)

The Arlington Public Schools implements the above policy. Results from the Program Evaluation of the Early Childhood Programs revealed that:

Quality Conditions

Class Size. Legal Basis: VA. CODE ANN. § 22.1-199.1. Enacted 1996.
The Virginia Legislature established a long-term goal of reducing pupil-teacher ratio and class size for K-3 in those schools with high or moderate concentrations of at-risk students.   Local districts are to provide matching funds based on the composite index of local ability to pay. The State Board of Education is to budget accordingly.
Current Average Elementary School Class Size: 19.4

School Safety. The state enacted an anti-bullying statute that mandates the state board to define "bullying" in its Student Conduct Policy Guidelines. The character education program in every school must also address the inappropriateness of bullying.
Basis: VA. CODE ANN. § 22.1-208.1, 22.1-279.3:1, 22.1-279.6; § 8.01-220.1:2; 2004 H.B. 629 (new section)

Accountability

Statute:
Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-19, § 22.1-253.13

Administrative Code: 8 VAC § 20-131-10 – § 20-131-340

Virginia does not reward nor sanction districts on the basis of performance.

Virginia does not reward but it sanctions schools on the basis of performance. State sanctions of schools include the offer of technical assistance and more funds, a requirement that the school create and implement a plan for improvement, placement on probation, and loss of accreditation.

NEA Grant to Close Achievement Gaps

The Virginia Education Association plans to use its NEA Grant to Close Achievement Gaps to pass legislation to bring teacher salaries to the national average and attain legislation and funding for statewide pre-school. They also plan to create regional teams that will organize and lobby for sound policies to close achievement gaps, and will host four regional conferences to heighten awareness of achievement gaps.