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State: Area schools need improvement plans

Two schools must hire coaches to help boost student performance

Several area schools must develop improvement plans because they did not meet annual measurable objectives, according to Virginia Department of Education data released Wednesday.

Two schools, Indian Hollow Elementary in Frederick County and W.W. Robinson Elementary in Shenandoah County, have been classified as focus schools and each will need to hire a coach to help improve student performance.

The new objectives recently took the place of adequate yearly progress targets, which schools were required to meet under the federal education law.

Now, under No Child Left Behind Act flexibility waivers, Virginia's new objectives represent the percentage of students within each subgroup who must pass Standards of Learning tests in reading and math to make acceptable progress over six years.

While the new objectives are focused on goals for low-performing schools, all schools must meet them.

Subgroups include black, Hispanic, white and Asian students, as well as those with disabilities and with economic disadvantages.

The objectives for math were changed following the new SOL test, and are lower than those for reading.

Of Virginia's 1,836 schools that took SOLs, 1,241 achieved all annual measurable objectives. Only 36 schools were classified as priority and 72 were labeled focus schools. Improvement plans will be required for 485 of the state's public schools.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia Wright stated in a news release on Wednesday that the "waivers from NCLB mandates granted by the Obama administration to Virginia and other states mark a dramatic shift in federal education policy. We are now able to target school turnaround efforts and resources on those schools where students truly are falling behind."

In Frederick County, 10 schools met all of the state's objectives. Eight -- including Frederick County and James Wood middle schools and James Wood and Millbrook high schools -- did not, and will have to begin improvement plans.

In a news release sent out by the school division, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Peter Vernimb noted that 10 schools meeting the objectives is an improvement from only two meeting them last year.

"I'm confident that all of our schools that didn't meet the AMOs this year can continue to make progress toward doing so even as the state's standards are becoming more rigorous," he said.

Indian Hollow Elementary School, however, attained the status of a focus school and will be required to "employ a state-approved coach to help develop, implement and monitor intervention strategies to improve the performance of students at risk of not meeting achievement standards," according to the VDOE news release.

The school division will not have to adjust its budget to allow for the employment of such a coach, according to Steve Edwards, the school's director of communications.

Superintendent David Sovine said that student performance on standardized tests is just one measure of a school's success.

"A school that does not meet all of the AMOs is not necessarily a poor performing school," Sovine said.

In addition to W.W. Robinson being labeled a focus school, Shenandoah County Public Schools has three schools -- Ashby Lee Elementary, Sandy Hook Elementary and Signal Knob Middle -- that will have to implement improvement plans.

Superintendent B. Keith Rowland said that each school missed the English objectives by just a few points in a particular group, but met the requirements for math.

"It's important that people realize that we're not a failing school division because of this," he said. "We have guidelines from the state that we will follow, and we'll do our best to address the issue."

Four Warren County Public Schools met all annual measurable objectives, but four others, three elementary schools and the middle school, will complete improvement plans.

Greg Drescher, assistant superintendent for instruction, said that each school missed the "white group" objective of 90 percent by a few points.

"While we certainly work to meet all of the AMOs for every group, we do see high levels of achievement when we are having pass rates in the high 80s," he said.

While all schools in the division already develop annual plans to make continuous improvements, Drescher added that the four schools with the requirement will "make sure the AMO areas are specifically addressed."

The Virginia Board of Education will vote on Oct. 25 on objectives for math during school years 2012-2013 through 2016-2017.

Reading objectives for assessment years 2012-2013 through 2016-2017 will be based on results from the reading SOL test that students will take for the first time this year.

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com


Well, well, well, finally the lack of quality teachers and a sub par teaching curriculum is coming to light. For years they have hired teachers that no other county would, and even some have never spent time in a classroom under the mentorship of an educator. I can't believe it has taken this long. The number of good teachers is growing thin, and yet you continue to let teachers that have produced students that are behind in the beginning of the next year to continue teaching without any reprimand. I think the teachers should be graded as well, when the students are tested at the beginning of the year to see where they are, and there is clearly a gap in students that were taught by the same teacher the prior year are farther behind the rest of the students that were not, you cannot blame the anyone but the educator. I think its time the superintendant looks at WW Robinson from the top down and brings someone in that will work to build a teaching environment that will repair the foundation of education that begins in the elementary school, if you don't get them interested in learning early on, you've lost them forever. My son attended WW for 4 years and of those only 2 of the 4 teachers he had are what I considered educators, the other 2 did nothing but put time in and babysit. These are the teachers that need to be identified and retrained, if not then removed.

So, my real estate taxes were just raised to help finance these "sub par" teachers a raise and they are not even doing their jobs. With unions, they do not have to perform; they just have to show up. It's a losing battle.

Just a thought...but maybe we can't attract the best teachers out there since the pay seems to be lagging behind other systems in the area. From what I understand with the "raise" this year many teachers are actually taking home less per month then they were last year thanks to changes with VRS and rises in health insurance costs. Maybe the old Field of Dreams line is true...just tweaked to fit in this case...If you pay them, they (the good ones) will come.


I spoke at the school board meeting last night (10/11/2012) about the lack of funding to complete maintenance work on our current public schools and not having enough buses for our children. These are safety concerns for all of us.

Now they are looking to renovate a school for $4.5 million when there is new school north of Woodstock for $1.7 million. I asked the school board to look at the Mathew Center's bid and see if they can work with the Christian School since Charterhouse finds the Christian School unsuitable.

At Tuesday’s BOS meeting they wouldn't say WHY the new school is not suitable. So I asked that question with no response. We need people to show up on October 23, 700pm next BOS meeting at the Government Center and just pack the place with people.
Write a few lines to say how you want your tax dollars spent. I understand people are reluctant or nervous about public speaking. Especially now the county and school boards have asked for an armed and uniformed Deputy to be present at all public meetings. Don’t be intimated, we have free speech on OUR side.

But you don't have to look at them, just read and let your voice be heard. It is our time to change things in Shenandoah County. Please embrace this opportunity with me and bring all your friends, family and neighbors.
If you can’t attend call your all the supervisor’s, school board and county board and Dr. Rowland. Leave a message and tell them no to a $4.5million dollar project and yes to less spending with an immediate, safe and secure building at $1.7 million for our special need children.

It is amazing to me how such strong opinions can be formed with very little information or understanding of the situation. The demands and expectations placed on schools and teachers has increased exponentially over the past several years. In your line of work are you expected to achieve 100% customer satisfaction or quality of product? Of course most workers strive for that level of success but does their job actually depend on it? Is your professional success measured by how well your customers apply the service or product you've provided? Does your boss personally observe you doing your job on a regular basis and write up an evaluation of your performance? Are you required to take a certain number of classes or attend enough professional development activities to maintain your certification or license? Teachers experience all of these demands and quality checks. And yes, teachers do receive a yearly evaluation. Beginning this year, 40% of that evaluation depends on student achievement/progress. How many customers or projects do you work with at once? Teachers provide service to 20 or more "customers" at once---not one after the other--all at the very same time. I'll bet that whether you provide a service or produce a good you are given materials to do your job that are of a standard and consistent quality. Students walk into classrooms with a variety of skill levels, interest levels, behavior challenges, health issues, family issues, levels of school attendance, background experiences, etc. Yet teachers are expected to compensate for all of these differences and produce a product that passes rigorous standards. Standards that would be considered ridiculous when applied to other public service professionals. Is your police force "sub par" when they don't prevent or solve all crimes? Are you going to fire your doctor because she doesn't have a 100% cure rate?
Would you like to know the biggest factor in W.W. Robinson's being identified as a focus school? Over 1,200 children attend WWR. The school has run out of classrooms to house them all. Some teachers are working out of what used to be storage closets. Some of them sit on the floor in the hallway to work with students because the travel time to walk to the other side of the school takes too much time away from instruction. When determining whether schools "make the grade" or not the state and federal government do take into consideration certain "gap groups"--students that have economic disadvantages, learning disabilities,
and limited English proficiency. If a school has 50+ students in a gap group then those scores are counted as part of the school's final passing percentage. With over 1,200 kids WWR easily meets or exceeds those numbers in these gap groups. Schools that don't have 50 students in these groups don't have those scores counted "against" them.
Could education in our county be better? You bet. But with higher standards and smaller budgets I don't look for that to happen overnight.
Transplant--you seem really concerned about education. I think your energy and passion could be put to good use by volunteering in the local schools helping over worked teachers and struggling students to achieve these lofty goals. Instead of cursing the darkness, I suggest you light a candle.

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