- Report Published -
|Review of Factors and Practices Associated with School Performance in Virginia|
|Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission|
|SJR 349 (Regular Session, 2003)|
|In 2003, the General Assembly enacted SJR 349 directing the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to collect data and information regarding best practices at high-performing schools and divisions in the Commonwealth. The review was directed based on concerns that while most schools are meeting academic achievement goals, there remains a significant achievement gap between the best- and poorest-performing schools, and the recognition that some schools and divisions facing significant challenges have been able to overcome them. In addition to examining best practices, the study resolution requested that JLARC staff examine specific demographic and other factors that may influence academic success. |
To examine the factors that may impact academic achievement, JLARC staff conducted an extensive quantitative analysis of variables potentially associated with Standards of Learning (SOL) test performance. To assess best practices in successful schools, JLARC staff conducted interviews with 61 principals and 11 superintendents and surveyed teachers in the schools visited.
The results of the quantitative analysis revealed strong statewide trends regarding factors that tend to be associated with SOL test scores. The level of student poverty, the proportion of black students, and the educational attainment of adults in the community are all strong predictors of school performance as measured by SOL test scores. The relationship between these three factors and SOL test scores can be partially explained by certain student, family, school, division, and local fiscal characteristics, as well as by teacher qualifications and experience.
Despite the strong trends identified, the results of the qualitative analysis revealed that individual schools can and do exceed predicted results by employing practices which allow them to overcome challenges and achieve higher than expected levels of success. In addition, the analysis revealed that some school divisions with challenges have exceeded predicted results by having strong and stable leadership, addressing ineffective teachers, and providing extensive professional development for teachers and principals.
The study also found that over the last several years SOL test scores and pass rates have increased substantially, and that principals interviewed and teachers surveyed generally believe that the SOLs have been helpful in improving the performance of their schools and students. However, the Commonwealth and its public schools still face a number of challenges for the future.