State directs hundreds of schools to narrow achievement gaps - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

State directs hundreds of schools to narrow achievement gaps

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Hundreds of Virginia schools are being told to come up with a new lesson plan after they failed to meet at least some new federal benchmarks for student achievement.

Those schools, including about 70 are in the Richmond and Tri-Cities area, will have to develop and improvement plans for reading, math, or both. Some will even have to have a special "coach" get involved, according to the state.

The focus is on low-performing schools, often in economically disadvantaged areas.

"What we're seeing is a real shift in federal education policy," said Charles Pyle with the Virginia Department of Education. Pyle says the shift is from the Bush-era "No Child Left Behind" policies to what the state describes as a more flexible program under the Obama administration.

"It's not sufficient to just look at overall performance," Pyle said.

Instead, Virginia's public schools are now measured against certain benchmarks, and whether student subgroups are meeting required levels of achievement. And, there is work to do. More than 500 schools, for example, must implement some sort of plan to raise achievement, according to the state.

21 of those schools are in Henrico, 20 are in Richmond, and 14 are in Chesterfield.

"It'll be a local responsibility to develop these plans based on the specific needs of the school," Pyle said.

In addition, some of those schools must engage with what's called a "turn around partner" or a state-approved coach to help turn around the numbers.

"Someone to come in and actually provide boots on the ground at the central office level. Even at the building level to assist the school division in raising the achievement of the students," Pyle said.

To look at the numbers a different way: 68% of the state's public schools successfully met their new annual benchmarks.

For detailed information on the benchmarks, including the specific schools that were named by the Virginia Department of Education, click here.

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