School staff work to surpass accreditation standards

FRONT ROYAL – After more students passed reading and math SOL tests at Ressie Jefferies Elementary School, staff will be continuing training efforts to bring student performance above accreditation standards as part of the school’s three-year improvement plan.

The plan was unanimously approved by all School Board members in attendance at the Thursday meeting after discussion led by Director of Elementary Instruction Lisa Rudacille and school principal Thomas Matteson.

Rigor on the math tests was increased in 2011-2012 to foster a switch to more conceptual methods of thinking about math. Likewise, rigor was increased on the reading tests in 2012-2013, and Rudacille pointed out that passing averages suffered across the state.

“Ressie Jefferies is certainly not an anomaly when it comes to this,” she said.

The school is in its second year having accreditation with warning because of the reading tests – a status that around 30 percent of schools in the state bore after the rigor increased.

Rudacille’s plan illustrates that the pass rates have improved since the 2013-2014 school year, but remain at or just below accreditation standards. The average English pass rates went from 65 percent to 70 percent with a 75 percent goal and the average math pass rates jumped from 61 percent to 71 percent with a 70 percent goal.

Breaking down the math pass rates in 2015 reveals that 82.7 percent of fourth graders passed while 65.6 percent of fifth graders and 59.8 percent of third graders passed. However, those numbers are all up by more than nine points since last school year.

The School Board suggested other factors like administration shifts may have contributed to the decrease in pass rates. In addition, four out of five fifth grade teachers at the school had started teaching during the 2014-2015 school year.

To Rudacille, the increased pass rates mark the adaptation of students and teachers to those test changes and both are fully equipped to surpass the standards this year.

Most funding for the continuation of the school’s plan will come from local or Title I sources. Staff members will continue to attend monthly training seminars in Staunton, and the school improvement team will continue to meet monthly to continue to review intervention strategies.

“They work really hard to look at each of the students and the progress that they’re making,” Rudacille said.

Superintendent Gregory Drescher said he’s confident that the school will reach those accreditation standards during the 2015-2016 school year.

Other items approved on the Thursday meeting’s action agenda were the inclusion of Virginia School Board Association policy updates and the acceptance of the school activity funds audit. A groundbreaking ceremony for the new middle school will be scheduled around the middle of October.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com