Learning Climate

Attendance: The attendance rate equals “average daily attendance” divided by “average daily membership.” Average daily attendance is the aggregate number of days of attendance of all students during a school year divided by the number of days school is in session during the year. Average daily membership is the aggregate number of days of membership of all students during a school year divided by the number of days school is in session during the year.

Daily attendance is critical to success in school. A student is considered chronically absent if he or she misses two or more instructional days per month (18 days, or 10 percent of a 180-day school year) regardless of whether the absences are excused or unexcused. According to the U.S. Department of Education:

  • Children who are chronically absent in preschool, kindergarten, and first grade are much less likely to read on grade level by the third grade.
  • Students who can’t read at grade level by the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.
  • By high school, regular attendance is a better dropout indicator than test scores.
  • A student who is chronically absent in any year between the eighth and twelfth grade is seven times more likely to drop out of school.

 

Student Conduct: Increasingly, Virginia schools are implementing Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, a nationally-recognized approach to support positive academic and behavioral outcomes for students. This positive approach to discipline prepares teachers and principals to implement new techniques that reduce disruptive student behaviors that lead to suspensions and decrease instructional time.

A short-term suspension (10 days of less) may be imposed by a principal, an assistant principal, or a designee teacher in the principal’s absence. The principal or assistant principal must tell the student of the charges against him or her. If the student denies them, he or she is given an explanation of the facts as known to the school and an opportunity to present his version of what occurred. Notice to the parent may be oral or written, depending on local school board policy, and must include information on the length of the suspension, the availability of community-based educational options, and the student’s right to return to regular school attendance when the suspension period has expired.  A parent may ask for a short-term suspension decision to be reviewed by the superintendent or his designee. Local school board policy will determine whether the superintendent’s decision is final or can be appealed to the local school board. For more information, see A Parent’s Guide To Understanding Student Discipline Policies and Practices In Virginia Schools.

A long-term suspension (more than 10 school days and less than 365 calendar days)  is usually imposed by a disciplinary hearing officer upon recommendation of a principal. The student must be told of the charges against him or her. If the student denies them, he or she is given an explanation of the facts as known to the school and an opportunity to present his or her version of what occurred. Notice to the parent (and child) must be in writing and must include information on the length of and reason for the suspension, the right to a hearing in accordance with local school board policy, the availability of community-based educational options, and the student’s right to return to regular school attendance when the suspension period has expired or to attend an appropriate alternative education program approved by the school board during the suspension or after the suspension period expires. Costs for any community-based educational programs or alternative programs that are not part of the program offered by the school division are the financial responsibility of the parent. A parent has the right to appeal a long-term suspension decision in accordance with local school board policy. The appeal may first go to the local superintendent or his or her designee or to a sub-committee of the local school board; final appeal is to the full school board. The appeal must be decided by the school board within 30 days. For more information, see A Parent’s Guide To Understanding Student Discipline Policies and Practices In Virginia Schools.

An expulsion (removal from school for 365 calendar days) may only be imposed by a local school board. The student must be told of the charges against him or her. If the student denies them, he or she is given an explanation of the facts as known to the school and an opportunity to present his or her version of what occurred.  The parent (and child) must be noticed in writing of the proposed expulsion, the reasons the expulsion is being proposed, and of the right to a hearing before the school board or a sub-committee of the school board, depending on local policy. If the student is expelled, the parent is sent a written notification of the length of the expulsion and information on the availability of community-based educational, training, and intervention programs. The notice must state whether the student is eligible to return to regular school or to attend an approved alternative education program or an adult education program offered during or after the period of expulsion. The student may apply for readmission to be effective one calendar year from the date of his or her expulsion. For more information, see A Parent’s Guide To Understanding Student Discipline Policies and Practices In Virginia Schools.

 

Meal Programs: School divisions that choose to take part in the National School Lunch Program get cash subsidies and donated commodities from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for each meal they serve. In return, they must serve lunches that meet Federal requirements, and they must offer free or reduced-price lunches to eligible children. The School Breakfast Program operates by supporting breakfasts in the same manner as the National School Lunch Program.

At the beginning of each school year, letters and meal applications are distributed to households of children attending school. This letter informs households that school nutrition programs are available and that free and reduced-price meals are available based on income criteria. Applications have been eliminated totally in divisions that implement the community eligibility provision for all schools within the division.

Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level are eligible for free meals. Those between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are eligible for reduced-price meals, for which students can be charged no more than 40 cents for lunch and 30 cents for breakfast. All other students pay the full price for meals.

See the Virginia Department of Education website for more information about school nutrition programs.

School Breakfast Progam: Participation in the School Breakfast Program has been linked increased achievement, reduced absenteeism and tardiness, fewer disciplinary problems, and better student health.  Breakfast menus must provide one-fourth of the daily recommended levels for protein, calcium, iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and calories. Participating schools must serve breakfasts that meet Federal nutrition standards – one quarter of daily recommended levels of protein, calcium, iron, vitamins A and C and calories – and must provide free and reduced-price breakfasts to eligible children.  The No Kid Hungry Virginia campaign and the Virginia 365 Project are key state initiatives to increase participation in school nutrition programs and eliminate childhood hunger.

School Lunch Program: School divisions that take part in the National School Lunch Program get cash subsidies and donated food items from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for each meal served. In return, schools must serve lunches that meet federal requirements, and must offer free or reduced-price lunches to eligible children.

Studies show that well-nourished students are better learners. The No Kid Hungry Virginia campaign and the Virginia 365 Project are key state initiatives to increase participation in school nutrition programs and eliminate childhood hunger.