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.

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.

Virginia offers online resources through two Web portals: I-am-the-one.com and the Virginia Education Wizard (http://VAwizard.org). Both sites help students learn more about college and work-based learning opportunities.

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Virginia
High School Graduation Requirements

Course and Diploma Requirements for Students Entering the Ninth Grade in 2018 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, as well as 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 a 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.”

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 the Standard Diploma must earn at least six verified units of credit by passing corresponding SOL exams. Students pursuing the Advanced Diploma must earn at least nine 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

Standard Diploma

Verified Credits

Advanced Diploma

Required Credits

Advanced Diploma

Verified Credits

English

4

2

4

2

Math

3

1

4

2

Laboratory Science

3

1

4

2

History and Social Sciences

3

1

4

2

Health and Physical Education

1

 

2

 

Foreign Language, Fine Arts, or Career and Technical Education

 1

 

3

 

Economics and Personal Finance

1

 

1

 

Electives

4

 

3

 

Student Selected Test*

 

1

 

1

Total 

22

6

26

9

*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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Virginia
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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Virginia
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 annual postsecondary enrollment reports by school and district. The data tables break down enrollment by institutional sector and demographic subgroup. Districts have access to remedial enrollment, credit accumulation, and degree and certificate completion, and 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 students and prospective students.