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Posted September 20, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Accreditation results prove new SOLs challenge students

By Kim Walter

The percentage of schools meeting Virginia accreditation standards dropped sharply as a consequence of the rigorous new reading, writing and science Standards of Learning tests during 2012-2013, as well as a second year of results from more challenging mathematics assessments, according to a news release issued Friday by the state Department of Education.

Frederick County Public Schools sent out a release Friday as well, announcing that Indian Hollow Elementary, Middletown Elementary, Frederick County Middle and James Wood Middle schools have been accredited with warning in mathematics.

All public schools in both Warren and Shenandoah counties were fully accredited -- two of 36 divisions in the state to make the cut.

According to the state release, only 257 fully accredited schools were able to meet the mathematics benchmark based on achievement over three years, compared with 750 last year.

David Sovine, the division's superintendent, stated in the release that overall he was pleased with the results. While four schools have been accredited with warning, many did see improvement in five of the nine math SOLs administered last year.

Sovine added that earning accreditation is becoming increasingly difficult as the state continues to implement higher standards and more rigorous tests. As a result of the bar being raised, temporary declines in scores can be expected.

"The lower scores are not a sign that students are learning less, " he said. "Instead, they provide evidence that we are expecting more of students."

Schools accredited with warning will undergo academic reviews and are required to adopt and implement school improvement plans.

Peter Vernimb, assistant superintendent for instruction, said proactive, intensive academic reviews have already been completed at the four schools accredited with warning.

"These reviews cover all aspects of teaching and learning and provide school faculty with specific and measurable actions to improve student achievement," he said.

Greg Drescher, assistant superintendent for instruction in Warren County, said the division has continued to meet the required benchmark scores for reading, writing, math, science and history.

"There is no doubt the focus on results by all of our staff, the hard work our students do every day and the support our parents give their children has kept us at this high of a level," he stated via email on Friday.

However, the work isn't over. Drescher said the bar will continue to be raised, and the division will need to keep up with the changes.

"We all know when more of our students are successful in school, the stronger our communities will be," he said. "Longterm, our students benefit because they will leave us more skilled and ready for whatever awaits them after their K-12 education."

Seventy-seven percent, or 1,413, of Virginia's 1,828 public schools are rated as fully accredited for 2013-2014 compared to 93 percent for the 2012-2013 academic year.

The number of schools accredited with warning nearly quadrupled to 395, and six schools have been denied state accreditation because of chronically low achievement.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright noted in the state department's news release, "Over the last five years, the accreditation bar has been raised through the introduction of more rigorous curriculum standards and challenging new assessments that test students' problem-solving and critical-thinking skills as well as their content knowledge."

The impact of the challenging mathematics tests introduced two years ago grew as three-year averaging provided less mitigation in the calculation of accreditation ratings. Only 257 fully accredited schools were able to meet the mathematics benchmark based on achievement over three years, compared with 750 last year.

For a school now to earn full accreditation, at least 75 percent of students must pass reading and writing SOL tests, and at least 70 percent must pass state assessments in mathematics, science and history.

Updated 2013-2014 accreditation ratings for all schools are available on the state's website -- www.doe.virginia.gov.

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


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