Lane Waives Public School Accreditation

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane has exercised “emergency authority” to waive annual public school accreditation for the 2021-22 school year.

Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, public schools sent kids home early last spring and canceled the Standards of Learning (SOL) exams. Student performance on SOL tests in English, math and science are key metrics under the state Board of Education’s accreditation standards. Without the 2020-21 SOL results, there is insufficient data to calculate accreditation ratings for the current school year. And because year-to-year growth in English and math are accreditation criteria, Lane says in a press release today, it is necessary to scrap accreditation next year, too.

On the positive side, Lane argued that the action will enable schools to “focus on assessing the impact of the shutdown on students, academically and on their social and emotional well being. It will also allow school divisions to make decisions about resuming in-person instruction or reverting to virtual learning that will prioritize the health of students and staff, without the added pressure of possible impact on accreditation.”

Bacon’s bottom line: There is a certain logic to Lane’s judgment call. To be sure, he’s a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t position where he is certain to be criticized no matter what he decides. Regardless, the decision represents one more mile marker in the erosion of public school accountability. Cannot other metrics be found? Cannot “provisional” accreditation be provided? Are there no alternatives but abject surrender to the virus?

— JAB

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