County schools expect accreditation with warnings

By Josette Keelor

WOODSTOCK — Preliminary accreditation results that Shenandoah County Public Schools drafted based on last year’s Standards of Learning scores name all schools accredited, four of them with warning.

At a Thursday night School Board meeting, Rhonda Cook, IT student data analyst/testing coordinator for schools, said estimates show the Shenandoah County district should receive state level accreditation for the coming year.

Since district and state accreditation ratings and school and division report cards have not been released yet, she said preliminary numbers are subject to change. The Virginia Department of Education is expected to release the 2014-15 accreditation report on Tuesday.

Based on SOL scores, four Shenandoah County schools likely will be classified as accredited with warning.

W.W. Robinson Elementary School in Woodstock, North Fork Middle School in Quicksburg, Signal Knob Middle School in Strasburg and Strasburg High School are estimated to carry warnings in math and/or English this school year, Cook said.

If these estimates are accurate, she said, “Each school must submit an improvement plan.”

Introducing the discussion topic, Superintendent Jeremy Raley said although county schools show their merit in many other ways, standardized test scores are how state and federal governments rate schools’ performance.

“We know that student success is a lot more than just that singular measure,” he said.

Adding to the difficulty of standardized testing are recent changes in grading standards that Cook said have made reading, writing, science and math tests more challenging in the last two years.

“Students are not learning less, the state has raised the bar,” Cook said, quoting Steve Staples, Virginia superintendent of public instruction.

In the 2010-2011 school year, she explained, only 19 Virginia schools failed to receive full accreditation. In successive academic years, those numbers increased first to 62 and then to 111. In the 2013-14 year, when the math SOL test was revised, 401 Virginia schools lost full accreditation.

“I used to teach math,” Cook said. From three years ago, “That’s a 2,000 percent increase.”

Viewed another way, three years ago 110 school divisions could say every one of their schools met full accreditation. Last year, Cook said, that number dropped to 38.

“Until next week’s press release, we won’t know how many divisions can claim this year to have all schools fully accredited,” she said. “But the state has told us what they expect. For the 2014-15 school year, state education officials predict that at least a third of Virginia’s public schools will not earn full accreditation. That fraction, one-third, translates to more than 600 of the state’s 1,800 schools that will not achieve a rating of fully accredited.”

W.W. Robinson likely will receive warnings for failing to meet SOL benchmarks of 75 percent in English and 70 in math. The school had a pass rate of 61 percent on English SOL tests and 63 percent for math. Over a three-year period, pass averages were 70 percent for English and 64 for math. Though rates in science were also low this year, the school’s three-year average of 74 percent helped it exceed state benchmarks in science.

North Fork Middle School likely will receive a warning for its English passing rate of 63 percent. Its three-year average of 73 percent did not meet state benchmark of 75.

Signal Knob Middle School fell short of benchmarks in English and math, and estimated three-year percentage rates were 74 percent in English and 65 percent in math. Strasburg High School saw an estimated 68 percent pass rate in math for recent and three-year averages.

Other county schools fell short of some benchmarks, but their three-year averages should allow them to escape warnings.

Sandy Hook Elementary slipped in English and science, but had 75 percent pass rates over a three-year average. Peter Muhlenburg Middle School also wavered in English.

Three schools met all federal Annual Measurable Objectives for both English and math: Stonewall Jackson High School, Central High School and Ashby Lee Elementary School. AMOs measure the percentage of students in each school’s subgroup that must pass reading or math. AMO accreditation benchmarks increase every year.

This is an “all or nothing kind of thing,” Raley told the board. “If you have one ‘no,’ then that means that you are in improvement and are not maintaining Annual Measurable Objectives.”

“Again, looking at this in isolation, you have to be careful,” he said. “This is but one measure.”

The board meets again at 7 p.m., Oct. 9, when district employees plan to report on academic improvement plans.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com