New accreditation ratings show testing gains

Area schools are better able to gauge their progress working toward regaining accreditation after the Virginia Department of Education created new ratings earlier this month.

With this year’s newly revised Standards of Accreditation in place, schools that are not labeled as having full accreditation are further broken down into categories that reflect levels of improvement.

To be labeled as an improving school, the pass rates in Standards of Learning tests must have increased by certain percentage points broken down by test and previous pass rates. For instance, a school with a pass rate of 65 percent in math, science or history must improve by 2 points to earn the title, but a pass rate of 65 percent in English must have increased by 4 points.

Those schools labeled as approaching benchmarks must have pass rates within 2 points of accreditation. When not making significant progress increasing those percentages, schools will be partially accredited and warned. A similar system exists for high schools below the benchmark Graduation and Completion Index.

Despite these new classifications, partially accredited schools must still earn full accreditation within three years or be denied state accreditation. Once denied, those schools must submit action plans through the School Board.

W.W. Robinson Elementary in Woodstock is improving its pass rate, reaching the benchmark on math tests but is still 7 points below it in English. All three Shenandoah County middle schools are partially accredited with warning. For English SOL pass rates, North Fork is 6 points below benchmark, Peter Muhlenberg is 8 and Signal Knob is 4 below English and 2 below math benchmark.

Skyline High School in Warren County is approaching pass rate at 2 points away from full accreditation in English and a point away in math. Although 71 percent of students at Ressie Jeffries Elementary in Front Royal are passing math SOLs – above the threshold for full accreditation – the pass rate in English tests at 72 percent falls just a point under the narrow margin to be considered approaching pass rate.

“Regardless of the label we still need to compare actual pass rates with the previous couple of years’ pass rates,” Superintendent Greg Drescher wrote in an email. “This tells us if we are making progress, staying steady or moving backwards.”

Federal school accountability reports were released on Tuesday, indicating whether schools and districts reached annual measurable objectives and if they qualify as focus or priority schools.

Five elementary schools in Frederick County were labeled as focus schools this year, meaning they must employ the help of approved school coaches. Middletown Elementary is the only school that acquired that status this year. Apple Pie Ridge, Orchard View, Redbud Run and Stonewall elementary schools are all in their second required year of bearing the title.

Bass-Hoover, Middletown and Stonewall elementary schools were all partially accredited and warned because of English SOL pass rates. Bass-Hoover and Stonewall are accredited in math and Middletown is within a point of achieving that status.

Gainesboro Elementary is labeled as improving pass rate, just a point under the approaching pass rate status. Redbud Run Elementary is only a percentage point away in English test scores from full accreditation.

Superintendent David Sovine said that in spite of recognition of improvement built into the new Standards of Accreditation, there is still room for reform.

“The formula used to identify Priority and Focus Schools is very complex and difficult to understand,” he stated in a news release. “When you review the data from Orchard View and Apple Pie Ridge Elementary Schools, you find two schools that are making outstanding progress, are fully accredited and are still stuck with the Focus School label.”

In Clarke County, Boyce and D.G. Cooley elementary schools are both identified as focus schools. D.G Cooley is fully accredited this year, but Boyce is still 3 percentage points away in math scores from the approaching benchmark status even though it has still improved since last year.

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

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