Virginia Readiness Policies

Overview

Virginia
High School and Postsecondary Alignment

SREB’s Challenge to Lead 2020 goals call for states to align middle grades and high school policies with college-readiness standards, to recognize multiple paths to graduation and to provide students with diverse postsecondary options and resources. The following tabs summarize how Virginia aligns its policies to promote smooth transitions for students through high school and beyond.  

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Virginia
College and Career Planning in K-12

Beginning in elementary school, students develop Academic and Career Plan Portfolios, including information about students interests and future goals. Seventh and eighth graders develop Academic and Career Plans and receive counseling about opportunities for obtaining industry certifications prior to high school graduation, as well as learning about Advanced Placement and dual enrollment options.

Middle schools are also required to provide a course in career investigation, Middle grades students complete a locally selected career interest inventory and identify a career pathway. Students review their academic and career plans before they enter the ninth and 11th grades. The plan includes a high school program of study that is aligned with a postsecondary career pathway and/or college entrance.

Virginia offers several online resources and web portals to help students develop their plans. Virginia Education Wizard and Virginia Career VIEW help students in elementary, middle grades and high school learn more about college, career and work-based learning opportunities.

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia administers a statewide, federally funded GEAR UP program to help low-income students prepare for college. The program delivers early college activities through summer school on college campuses, neighborhood academies and parental-involvement initiatives, and scholarships for eligible participants.

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Virginia
High School Graduation Requirements

Course and Diploma Requirements for Students Entering the Ninth Grade in 2020 and Beyond

Students must earn at least 22 standard units to earn a Standard Diploma. To receive an Advanced Diploma, students must earn four additional standard units. All students must complete at least one virtual course, which may be non-credit-bearing. Students must also complete one AP, honors or IB course, complete a high-quality work-based learning experience, or earn a career and technical education credential that has been approved by the Virginia Board of Education. Examples include, but are not limited to, the successful completion of an industry certification or the passing of a state licensure exam, national occupational competency assessment, or the Virginia Workplace Readiness Skills test. Students must also be trained in Emergency First Aid, CPR and use of an AED. Finally, all students must demonstrate foundational skills in “the five Cs” in accordance with the Profile of a Virginia Graduate approved by the board: critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, communication, and citizenship.

Subject

Standard Diploma*

Advanced Diploma

English

4 credits

4 credits

Math

3 credits:

At least two courses from Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra Functions, Data Analysis, Algebra II or other approved courses (a computer science course may be substituted)

4 credits:

At least three courses from Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra Functions, Data Analysis, Algebra II or other approved courses (a computer science course may be substituted)

Laboratory Science

3 credits:

Course selections from at least two different science disciplines: Earth sciences, biology, chemistry, physics, or completion of the sequence of science courses required for the IB Diploma

4 credits:

Course selections from at least two different science disciplines: Earth sciences, biology, chemistry, physics, or completion of the sequence of science courses required for the IB Diploma

History and Social Sciences

3 credits:

U.S. and Virginia History

U.S. and Virginia Government

Either World History or Geography or both

4 credits:

U.S. and Virginia History

U.S. and Virginia Government

World History 

Geography

Foreign Language

Not Required

3 credits: three years of a single foreign language or two years of two languages

Health and Physical Education

2 credits

2 credits

Fine Arts or Career and Technical Education**

2 credits: one credit in fine or performing arts or CTE (for the Standard diploma, this category includes World Language)

1 credit

Economics and Personal Finance

1 credit

1 credit

Electives

4 credits: must include at least two sequential electives as required by the Standards of Quality

3 credits: must include at least two sequential electives as required by the Standards of Quality

Total Credits

22

26

*Students may substitute a CTE credit for credit in history, science or social studies if the student completes a CTE program sequence and passes an examination or occupational competency assessment in a CTE field that confers certification or an occupational competency credential from a recognized industry, or trade or professional association or acquires a professional license in a career and technical education field from the Commonwealth of Virginia. The examination or occupational competency assessment must be approved by the Board of Education as an additional test to verify student achievement.
**A computer science course credit earned by students may be considered a career and technical course credit.

Virginia requires all students graduating with either the standard or advanced diplomas to earn five verified credits: two in English, one in math, one in science, and one in history and social sciences. Verified credits are “awarded for a course in which a student earns a standard unit of credit and achieves a passing score on a corresponding end-of-course SOL test or a substitute assessment approved by the Board or Education.”

Graduation Seals of Achievement

Governor’s Seal

  • Complete the requirements for an Advanced Studies Diploma with an average grade of “B” or better.
  • Earn at least nine transferable college-level credits in AP, IB, Cambridge or dual enrollment courses.

Board of Education Seal

  • Complete the requirements for a Standard or an Advanced Studies Diploma with an average grade of “A” or better.

Board of Education’s Career and Technical Education Seal

  • Complete the requirements for a Standard or an Advanced Studies Diploma, including a prescribed sequence of courses in a CTE concentration and maintain a grade of “B” or better in those courses, OR
  • Earn a CTE certificate or recognized industry, trade, or professional credential, OR
  • Acquire a license in a CTE field from the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Board of Education’s Diploma Seal for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

  • Earn a Standard or an Advanced Studies Diploma and complete all the math and science requirements for the Advanced Studies diploma with a “B” average or better in all course work.
  • Complete 50 hours or more work-based learning in a STEM area.
  • Satisfy the requirements for a CTE concentration (two or more courses).
  • Pass one of the following:
    • a Board of Education CTE STEM-H credential examination, OR
    • an examination approved by the Board that confers a college-level credit in a STEM field.

Board of Education’s Excellence in Civics Education Seal

  • Complete the requirements for the Modified Standard, a Standard, or an Advanced Studies Diploma.
  • Complete Virginia & U.S. History and Virginia & U.S. Government courses with a grade of “B” or higher.
  • Complete 50 hours of voluntary participation in community service or extracurricular activities, participate in JROTC or enroll in the military during high school.
  • Have good attendance and no disciplinary infractions.

Board of Education’s Seal of Biliteracy

  • Pass all required End-of-Course Assessments in English reading and writing at the proficient or higher level.
  • Demonstrate proficiency on an approved assessment at the intermediate-mid level or higher in one or more languages other than English, including American Sign Language.

Board of Education’s Seal for Excellence in Science and the Environment

  • Earn either a Standard or Advanced Studies Diploma.
  • Complete at least three different first-level laboratory science courses and at least one rigorous advanced-level or postsecondary-level laboratory science course, each with a grade of “B” or higher.
  • Complete laboratory or field-science research and present that research in a formal, juried setting
  • Complete at least 50 hours of voluntary participation in community service or extracurricular activities that involve the application of science such as environmental monitoring, protection, management or restoration.

Other Diploma Seals or Awards

Local school divisions may award other diploma seals or awards for exceptional academic, CTE, citizenship or other exemplary performance in accordance with criteria defined by the local school board. The design, production and use of those seals is the responsibility of the local school boards awarding the seal.

Assessment Requirements

The Virginia State Board of Education requires districts to administer end-of-course exams through the state’s Standards of Learning assessment program. Students who pass corresponding SOL assessments receive “verified credit” for those courses. Virginia has developed a battery of 12 exams in 11 subject areas: Algebra I and II, Biology I, chemistry, earth science, English (reading and writing), geometry, World History I and II, world geography, and Virginia and U.S. history.

Students pursuing both the Standard Diploma and Advanced Diploma must earn at least five verified units of credit by passing corresponding SOL exams. In addition to the verified credits for the four core subjects, students may also select an SOL assessment or alternate tests in computer science, career and technical education, or other areas approved by the state board of education. See table below.

Verified Credits Required for Graduation with a Standard or Advanced Diploma

Subject

Standard Diploma

Required Credits

Advanced Diploma

Required Credits

Advanced Diploma

Verified Credits

English

4

4

2

Math

3

4

1

Laboratory Science

3

4

1

History and Social Sciences

3

4

1

Health and Physical Education

1

2

0

World Language

0

3

0

Fine Arts, or Career and Technical Education

 2 (including World Language

1

0

Economics and Personal Finance

1

1

0

Electives

4

3

0

Total 

22

26

5

NOTE: A student may utilize additional tests for earning verified credit in computer science, technology, career or technical education, economics or other areas as prescribed by the board in 8VAC20-131-110.

The state department of education, in consultation with higher education faculty, has developed English and math Capstone Courses, for students who have completed required courses, earned at least two “verified” credits, but are not fully college ready. The Virginia General Assembly funds academies for students at risk of not meeting college and career readiness benchmarks through a program called Project Graduation.

The department of education produces school and district report cards, which include the number and percentage of students participating in Advanced Placement and dual credit programs, SOL test results, and the number of students who receive a career and technical education credential.

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Virginia
Accelerated Learning Options in High School

Competency-Based Credit

There is no single policy that is consistent among all secondary institutions in Virginia. However, in March 2018, the State council of Higher Education for Virginia approved the Virginia Public Higher Education Policy on course Credit for AP, Cambridge, CLEP, and IB in accordance with Virginia Code §23.1-906. This policy required all postsecondary public institutions to review their policies regarding credit awards for the four types of exams: Advanced Placement, Cambridge, College Level Examination Program, and International Baccalaureate. Institutions are required to make their reviewed policies available on their websites.

Career and Technical Education

Virginia has adopted the National Career Clusters Model. The state provides CTE courses in 16 career clusters and has approved more than 350 credentialing examinations. Beginning with the graduating class of 2017, students are required to earn a board-approved career and technical education credential to graduate with a standard diploma. Students can meet this requirement through successful completion of an industry certification, a state licensure examination, a national occupational competency assessment, or the Virginia Workplace Readiness Skills for the Commonwealth Assessment.

Dual Enrollment and Dual Credit

The Virginia Plan for Dual Enrollment Between Virginia Public Schools and Community Colleges gives high school students the opportunity to enroll at both a high school and postsecondary institution and earn credit at each level. Students may take regularly scheduled community college courses or may take courses scheduled for dual enrollees either on community college or high school campuses. Some four-year institutions allow high school students to enroll in classes. Students may gain approval to exceed a full course load in order to participate in such courses offered at an institution of higher education that lead to a degree, certificate, or credential. Dual enrollment coursework is restricted to students in grades 11 and 12, although exceptions may be made for students in grades 9 and 10 who can demonstrate readiness to pursue college-level work. Students must obtain approval from high school administrators and meet institutional admission and placement testing requirements.

The state encourages districts and community colleges to provide access to a wide range of dual credit options at no cost by funding the student’s attendance at both the high school and the postsecondary institution. All dual enrollment courses may be counted toward the 15 college credits required for a student to become an Early College Scholar. Certain dual enrollment courses may also qualify as part of the Commonwealth College Course Collaborative. This collaborative, involving all Virginia two- and four-year colleges and universities except for the Virginia Military Institute, provides a set of academic courses that fully transfer as core requirements and degree credits.

Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate

The Virginia State Board of Education requires districts to provide at least three Advanced Placement courses to high school students. The board approves various AP and International Baccalaureate “substitute tests” and minimum score requirements needed to receive verified credits usually acquired by passing Standard of Learning end-of-course assessments. Some AP/IB exams count as two verified credits. Virginia receives the Test Fee Program grant from the United States Department of Education that reduces testing costs for low-income students taking AP and IB exams.

Early College Admission

The Early College Scholars program encourages 11th and 12th graders to earn at least 15 transferrable college credits. To qualify for the program, students must be Advanced Studies diploma candidates, have at least a B average, and have the approval of their parents/guardians, high school principals and counselors. Early College Scholars are supported by Virtual Virginia, which provides statewide access to college-level courses, and the Commonwealth of College Course Collaborative, which defines the subjects that can be completed for college credit.

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Postsecondary Admission Requirements

Four-Year Institutions

Institutional governing boards set admissions requirements and minimum qualifying scores on college entrance exams. Colleges and universities consider high school curriculum, grade-point average, SAT/ACT scores, and class rank when making admission decisions.

Through system-wide agreements, students who graduate from a transfer-oriented degree program at a Virginia Community College System institution with an associate degree are eligible for guaranteed admission to more than 30 public and private four-year institutions, provided they meet minimum GPA requirements.

Two-Year and/or Technical Colleges

Applicants are eligible for admission if they possess a high school diploma or an equivalency credential, or if they are 18 years of age or older and demonstrate an ability to benefit from postsecondary instruction, as measured by the Virginia Placement Test, COMPASS or Asset. Students who do not achieve the scoring benchmarks will be permitted to enroll in non-credit classes only.

Readiness Assessment Benchmarks

Subject VPT COMPASS ASSET
Writing ENF1 32 35
Reading ENF1 62 35
Math MTE1 25 33

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Virginia
Postsecondary Placement Policies

Four-Year Institutions

Institutional boards set assessment and placement policies.

Community College System

The State Board for Virginia’s Community Colleges approved a multiple-measures placement policy in 2017. The policy lists several exemption criteria for students, including high school grade-point average and qualifying SAT, ACT, or GED scores. Additionally, students who have completed an associate degree, earned a C or better in a college-level math or English course, or completed developmental courses at a Virginia community college are exempt from placement testing.

Students who do not meet any of these criteria take the Virginia Placement Test for English and/or math.  The tests determine placement in developmental or credit-bearing courses. Students who are considered nearly college-ready may enroll directly into College Composition I (ENG 111) while co‐enrolling in a two‐credit‐hour developmental English course.

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State Financial Aid for Undergraduates

The state funds five major grant programs.

Virginia’s public institutions provide the need-based Virginia Commonwealth Award to eligible students. The state funds the program through legislative appropriations. While institutions choose award amounts, state law requires that institutions award aid in such a way that students with the greatest need receive the largest awards. To apply for the award, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Public institutions also may award the Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program, which provides financial aid to full-time students who demonstrate financial need and graduate from high school with a cumulative grade-point average of 2.5. To renew aid, students must maintain a 2.0 GPA and demonstrate continued financial need.

Students who earn associate degrees may qualify for the Two-Year College Transfer Grant. The base award provides $1,000 per year to students who completed their associate degree at a Virginia community college with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, enroll full-time in a four-year institution, and have an Expected Family Contribution of $12,000 or less. Students enrolled in science, teaching, engineering, math or nursing fields are eligible to receive a bonus award of $1,000 per year. Students enrolled at one of six public universities are eligible for an incentive award of $1,000 per year.

The Workforce Credential Grant pays two-thirds of the cost of enrolling in a high-demand industry certification program. The program requires students to receive an industry-based certification or state licensure to avoid repaying a portion of the grant.

The Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant Program provides financial aid for students attending in-state, nonpublic institutions. The maximum undergraduate award for the 2018-19 academic year is $3,270.

Recent legislation requires financial aid award notifications to meet requirements set by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

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Virginia
Postsecondary Feedback to High Schools

The Virginia Department of Education publishes an annual Postsecondary Achievement Report, a dashboard that displays postsecondary enrollment and first-year outcomes by school and district. The school and district views report data by demographic subgroup. Districts have access to remedial enrollment, credit accumulation and degree and certificate completion, along with graduates’ employment rates, and share this information with students and families annually. School divisions can do so by linking to the SCHEV Research website. All public and private institutions receiving any general fund support (including the Tuition Assistance Grant) link to the website to provide the same information to current and prospective students.