Lane sent the memo hours after Gov. Ralph Northam (D) ordered schools shuttered for the school year to help fight the spread of the novel coronavirus. He said his department would be as flexible “as is prudent and allowable” under Virginia law as it works to ensure seniors’ graduation.
“The governor and I agree that every student who was on a trajectory toward earning a diploma should be able to graduate on time and move on to the next stage of his or her life,” Lane said in a statement. “I hope the flexibility that I am announcing today will help students and teachers as they cope with the deep disappointment of having their time together unexpectedly cut short.”
Lane said the department is waiving some graduation requirements to ensure that several cohorts of seniors graduate on time no matter what — including students who have not completed all of the previously required courses, students who have not passed formerly mandatory state testing, and students who lack certain career and technical education credentials. He said the power to waive other requirements, such as training in CPR, lies with the General Assembly.
The Education Department last week asked federal officials to waive standardized testing requirements for students throughout the state.
“I am confident that everyone recognizes that students should not be prevented from graduating because of unforeseen circumstances beyond their control,” Lane said.
Northam announced the closures Monday, launching the state into an unprecedented era of education fraught with challenges. One of the most pressing is how educators can reach students virtually, given the fact that many families lack access to computers or the Internet.
This is partly why schools should refrain from grading over the next few months, Lane wrote in his guidance. In lieu of traditional grades, he suggested that school officials consider offering classes “pass/fail,” or calculating grades based on previously completed work.
Lane repeatedly emphasized that any plans for online learning should make accommodations for families with fewer resources.
“The provision of instruction should be done with careful consideration of providing equitable access and support for a variety of students,” Lane wrote — one of six times the word “equitable” appeared in the six-page guidelines.
He did not specify further.