- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 29, 2003

RICHMOND (AP) The Virginia Board of Education yesterday approved a plan for complying with federal school-accountability requirements that will lead to more standardized testing for students.
The board voted unanimously to approve a required "accountability workbook" to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education as part of the state's application for compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act.
The workbook details the state's plans for data-gathering and reporting on the state performance in meeting the act's requirements for "adequate yearly progress" in improving students' reading and math proficiency and graduation rates.
The vote to approve the plan came just three days before the deadline for submitting it to the federal agency. Board President Mark C. Christie said the state took extra time to tailor the proposal to Virginia's specific needs. Some states already have submitted plans and had those plans accepted.
"We could have done it quicker, but we didn't want to just take boilerplate [language], stamp it and turn it in," Mr. Christie said in an interview after the meeting.
Most of the late changes in the plan involved technical adjustments to make it more likely to receive federal approval and to give Virginia school administrators more flexibility in meeting compliance standards.
For example, Cheri Magill, director of education for the state Department of Education, explained that school districts will be allowed to use optional English-proficiency tests for some low-performing students in some grades for the next three years, instead of moving immediately to the statewide Standards of Learning tests.
Miss Magill said that in the next step in the compliance process, the federal agency will send a peer-review team to meet with Virginia education officials to go over the plan in detail. She said the federal team will include "practitioners from various states, possibly from some that have already had their applications accepted," and Department of Education staff members.
The No Child Left Behind Act, signed last January by President Bush, requires all 50 states to report students' performance on standardized tests and sets requirements for subject areas and grade levels to be tested.
Perhaps the most noticeable change in Virginia will be the addition of new tests in math and language arts in grades four, six and seven to complement existing Standards of Learning tests in grades three, five and eight and in high school. The new tests are to be added in the 2005-06 school year.

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