I woke up this morning to an interesting find in my inbox... The State of Virginia has passed and adopted new regulations which will go into effect for the 2013-2014 school year which will affect all students entering 9th grade.
If your child's IEP states that they will be working towards a modified diploma, please read this information carefully! As of 2013-2014 there will be no more modified diplomas for students through the 9th grade. Students who are in the 10th, 11th, or 12th grades as of 2013-2014 are not affected by this new regulation.
So what happens now? Well, your child will have to choose from either a standard or advanced diploma. The Board of Education has enacted emergency amendments to the Standards of Accreditation. These were originally adopted in June 2012, to give students with disabilities the chance to earn a Standard Diploma through "credit accommodations" which basically allows children with disabilities to substitute classes for credit on their particular diploma path. These credit accommodations MUST be outlined in the student's IEP or 504 plan to be counted, so now is a good time to review your child's IEP or 504 plan and see what accommodations may be needed to ensure that they are able to meet the requirements for a standard diploma!
The actual text of these emergency amendments is:
8 VAC 20-131-5. Definitions.
"Credit accommodations" means adjustments to meet the standard and verified credit requirements for earning a Standard Diploma for students with disabilities.
8 VAC 20-131-50. Requirements for graduation.
2. Requirements for a Standard Diploma
3. The Board of Education shall establish, through guidelines, credit accommodations to the standard and verified credit requirements for a Standard Diploma. Such credit accommodations for students with disabilities may include:
a. Approval of alternative courses to meet the standard credit requirements;
b. Modifications to the requirements for local school divisions to award locally awarded verified credits;
c. Approval of additional tests to earn a verified credit;
d. Adjusted cut scores required to earn verified credit; and
e. Allowance of work-based learning experiences.
The student’s Individual Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan would specify any credit accommodations that would be applicable for the student.
Essentially, this is meant to give special needs and disabled students the chance to earn the same diploma as their non-disabled counterparts, thus moving Virginia into the 21st century and adhering to the spirit of IDEA 2004.
The modifications proposed would affect the SOL assessments,and include modification to the requirements for local school divisions to award locally awarded verified credit and course offerings to earn standard and verified credits.
In addition to the current options available for students with IEP or 504 accommodations on SOL and other standardized tests used to verify credits (including the accommodations for students with disabilities provided on all SOL assessments, substitute tests for verified credit approved by the Board of Education, and Virginia Modified Achievement Standards Test (VMAST) available in Algebra I and end-of-course reading for certain students with disabilities) the following changes are enacted in this emergency amendment:
"Assessments Used to Verify Credits
1. Identify and approve additional substitute tests to earn a verified credit. The Board of Education may from time to time approve additional tests that are recommended by the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the purpose of awarding verified credit. The Virginia Department of Education may partner with a local school division in the procedure to nominate an additional test. Such additional tests, which enable students to earn verified units of credit, must, at a minimum, meet the following criteria:
a. The test must be standardized and graded independently of the school or school divisions in which the test is given;
b. The test must be knowledge based;
c. The test must be administered on a multistate or international basis, or administered as part of another state’s accountability assessment program; and
d. To be counted in a specific academic area, the test must measure content that incorporates of exceeds the SOL content in the course for which verified credit is given.
2. Permit the continued use of the Virginia Modified Achievement Standards Test (VMAST) for verified credit purposes for Algebra I and EOC reading. The student must meet all eligibility requirements in effect for the 2012-2013 school year and meet all of the following criteria to be eligible to take the VMAST for verified credit purposes:
a. Student must pass the high school course; and
b. Score 374 or below on the end-of-course Standards of Learning test after taking the test at least twice.
Beginning in 2014-2015, scores of students who participate in VMAST will no longer be included in the participation rate or pass rate calculations for federal accountability, as required for approval of Virginia’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility application."
Now, this is a MUCH higher standard than the previously available Modified Standard Diploma, but, depending on how the child's IEP and 504 plan accommodations are written it could supply a substantial benefit in their access to educational programming available through their school. The previous regulations called for locally awarded verified credits, up to 4 credits towards their diploma, in science or social science/history. The new regulations take this further:
"Locally Awarded Verified Credits
3. Permit local school boards to award locally awarded verified credits in reading, writing, and mathematics, in addition to science and history,to students with disabilities. Use the same criteria for awarding credits currently approved for science and history.
Eligible students must:
a. Pass the high school course,
b. Score within 375-399 scale score range on any administration of the Standards of Learning test after taking the test at least twice, and
c. Demonstrate achievement in the academic content through an appeal process administered at the local level."
So, as you can see this allows for modification of the curriculum and awarding of credits in math, reading, and writing in addition to the current verification of credits available for science and social sciences. This is a great benefit for children with math, reading, and writing difficulties accommodated in their IEPs and 504s. It also allows the districts (or boards, as the language reads in the latest draft) to change their course offerings for students with disabilities. This is the only part that I have found disconcerting, simply because it is worded to sound as though these courses would be specifically available to only disabled students and would not include their non-disabled counterparts, which could, in some instances, be considered a discriminatory practice. The language of the course offerings section is cited below. Do you find the same concern in it that I have?
4. Approve additional course options available only to students with disabilities to meet the standard credit requirements for the Standard Diploma.
7a. Augment the Personal Finance course (3120) to include the 21 Work Readiness Skills (WRS) for the Commonwealth. Allow this augmented course to meet the Economics and Personal Finance requirement if the student has earned at least 3 standard credits in history and social science. The economics strand in these courses would be deemed a credit accommodation.
Upon completion of the augmented Personal Finance course, the student may take the WRS assessment to earn the Board-approved Work Readiness Skills credential. This approach would satisfy the graduation requirements for economics and personal finance, history and social sciences, and the workplace credential.
b. Establish minimum content courses in the subject areas required for verified credits and provide flexibility in how the courses are delivered. Allow parts I and II of certain required courses to each earn a standard credit towards the total number required in the subject area. The student must successfully complete:
i. 4 standard credits in English and 1 verified credit each in Reading and Writing
ii. 3 standard credits in mathematics that include Algebra I and Geometry, and 1 verified credit in mathematics
iii. 3 standard credits in science that include Earth Science and Biology, and 1 verified credit in science
iv. 3 standard credits in history and social science that include Virginia and U.S. History and Virginia and U.S. Government, and 1 verified credit in history and social science."
The complete text of the emergency amendment is available here: http://www.doe.virginia.gov/boe/meetings/2013/03_mar/agenda_items/item_a.pdf. Be an informed parent and talk with your advocate about any concerns that you have!