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County schools examine reports

By Kim Walter

On Tuesday, the Virginia Department of Education released federal accountability reports that are aimed at illustrating individual school and division ability to meet annual measurable objectives set by the state.

The objectives, which were set last June and increase annually for six years, represent the percentage of students in each subgroup who must pass Standards of Learning tests in reading and math. Subgroups include students with disabilities, limited English-proficient students, economically disadvantaged students, and students of varying ethnicities.

While the objectibves serve as yearly progress goals for students in low-performing schools, higher-performing schools are to improve or maintain achievement levels.

For a school to be considered proficient during the 2012-13 school year, at least 66 percent of all students needed to pass the Standards of Learning reading tests, and 64 percent needed to pass the math test.

However, pass rates vary among different subgroups.

Five schools in Warren County -- A.S. Rhodes Elementary, Hilda J. Barbour Elementary, Ressie Jeffries Elementary, Warren County Middle and Skyline High -- met all the objectives.

According to Greg Drescher, assistant superintendent for instruction, several other schools met or exceeded the objectives, but because they didn't improve upon last year's scores, they weren't added to the list.

For instance, students at E. W. Morrison Elementary School scored above the objectives in math. However, the pass rate wasn't within 5 percent of the previous year's results. Under the current system, that means no improvement, which in turn means not meeting the objectives.

"There are a lot of moving pieces to how these reports are put together," he said. "In an instance like that at E.W. Morrison and a few of our other schools, it can be frustrating because we actually did meet the standards ... we just didn't improve enough from last year."

Drescher said there are other ways schools can manage to meet the objectives without having all the required pass rates -- if a school doesn't have the designated number of students in a certain subgroup, then it would automatically meet the objective.

Schools not showing increased pass rates are required to submit an improvement plan to the state. Only Warren County High School will have to submit the plan.

Drescher said that was the one school that truly didn't meet all the objectives.

"Even with a three-year average, the students there with disabilities just didn't quite reach the objectives," he said.

Likewise, only one school in Shenandoah County will be required to submit an improvement plan -- W. W. Robinson Elementary. The school is in its second year as a Focus School.

Being a Focus School is a two-year process, even if substantial student achievement and progress take place.

The division had five schools meet all objectives: Ashby Lee Elementary, Sandy Hook Elementary, North Fork Middle, Peter Muhlenburg Middle, Signal Knob Middle and Strasburg High.

Students at Central and Stonewall Jackson high schools exceeded the objectives, but didn't improve from last year's scores.

Ebbie Linaburg, assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and assessment, said the division was one of only 18 in the state to meet all objectives.

Even with the three schools that didn't meet the objectives, the average of all school pass rates was enough to set the division apart. The county is the second largest division of the 18 identified, and ranks among the top 14 percent of divisions in the state.

"It's nice to know that all the hard work our teachers, staff and administrators put in every day is paying off in this one aspect of how we're evaluated," she said. "Of course we concentrate on SOLs to a certain extent, but our teachers go beyond that."

On Friday, the state will release school accreditation results. Linaburg said she and other division personnel are anticipating full accreditation.

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

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