Every Prince William County school has been assigned an annual goal for improvement on standardized test scores under a plan announced this week by Superintendent Edward L. Kelly, who said he wants to link the goals to rewards and sanctions.
Prince William and Fairfax are the only Washington area districts that have announced numerical goals for higher student achievement at every school, even those that are already high-performing.
D.C. school officials have started a program in which schools qualify for cash awards if they raise their test scores by a certain amount.
Under Kelly's plan, which was presented to the School Board on Wednesday night, every Prince William school will be expected to make gains this year on the Virginia Standards of Learning tests. Schools that have a student pass rate above 70 percent, which is the state's benchmark, will be expected to move at least 10 percent closer to a pass rate of 100 percent.
"We wanted to pick targets that are within reach, but require effort on everyone's part," Kelly said.
Fairfax Superintendent Daniel A. Domenech announced a plan on Tuesday that sets school-by-school goals linked to scores on the Standards of Learning exams and the Stanford Nine achievement tests.
Unlike Fairfax's goals, Prince William's targets are not based on standardized test scores alone. High schools, for example, must have a student participation rate on the Scholastic Achievement Tests that exceeds the state and national average, and elementary schools must show improvement in the percentage of children who are at or above grade-level in reading and math.
Other goals involve attendance and the level of parental satisfaction, as measured by a survey of the school's parents.
For the past five years, Prince William school officials had developed goals for individual schools that were shared with principals and teachers but not parents. Kelly said the new goals for this school year will be displayed on a placard at each school building.
At the end of the school year, Kelly said, he will designate schools as exceptional, satisfactory or unsatisfactory, based on how many of their benchmarks they meet.
Kelly, like Domenech, said he eventually wants a system in which schools that perform well would get financial rewards and those that do poorly would face the threat of staff changes. That change would require approval by the Prince William School Board.
Officials in several other area districts said they have no plans to set targets for higher test scores at each of their schools.
Loudoun County requires principals, teachers and PTA members at each school to agree on a set of goals, but Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick said those plans don't include numerical benchmarks for improvement on student tests. "Their target is meeting the [state] passing rate" on the Standards of Learning exams, he said.
Staff writer Liz Seymour contributed to this report.