Many schools approaching accreditation benchmarks

The Virginia Department of Education released the accreditation status for schools throughout the state for 2016-2017. These accreditation ratings are based on achievement results from 2015-2016.

According to the Virginia Department of Education website, elementary and middle schools are fully accredited if students achieve a 75 percent pass rate or higher in English and 70 percent pass rates or higher in math, science and history. High schools are fully accredited if students achieve pass rates of 75 percent or higher in English and 70 percent or higher in math, science and history. High schools must also attain a point value of 85 or greater based on the Graduation and Completion Index.

Shenandoah County

Shenandoah County Public Schools Superintendent Mark Johnston said all schools were accredited, but four were accredited conditionally.

“We are a division in which continuous growth and improvement is expected for everyone so we feel up to the challenges,” he said. “Since coming on board, I’ve been impressed with level of commitment of our teachers and administrators to own the mindset of continuous growth and improvement and am pleased with their continued efforts to provide the very best instruction and opportunity to our students.”

Five Shenandoah County Public Schools were fully accredited. Stonewall Jackson High School, Central High School, Strasburg High School, Ashby Lee Elementary School and Sandy Hook Elementary School were all fully accredited.

The other schools in the division were partially accredited.

Johnston said the school division will work together to make improvements with a particular focus on areas where accelerated improvement is needed.

W.W. Robinson Elementary School was partially accredited. The school did not pass English and math testing and has been warned. W.W. Robinson has also been identified as a focus school. Focus schools are required to employ state-approved, school-improvement coaches. Focus schools keep this designation for at least two years, unless later identified as a priority schools or no longer receiving federal Title I funding.

North Fork Middle School and Peter Muhlenberg Middle School were partially accredited. They did not pass the English tests and have been warned. Schools that have been partially accredited and warned are schools not within a narrow margin of, nor making acceptable progress toward, achieving the adjusted SOL pass rates required to become fully accredited.

Signal Knob Middle School was partially accredited. The school did not pass English tests but is approaching the benchmark. Schools that are partially accredited but approaching the benchmark pass rate are schools that are not fully accredited, but are within a two-point margin of the adjusted SOL pass rates required for full accreditation in one or more subject areas.

Johnston said that while improvements need to be made, there were successes as well.

“This success sometimes gets hidden by arbitrary labels. For example, while Signal Knob was given a conditional accreditation, they missed just one benchmark by two percentage points. 73 on English reading versus the benchmark of 75. Students in Grade Five at W.W. Robinson, with the support of their teachers, had consistently high reading scores. That being said, each school is putting the finishing touches on their own improvement plans and receive central office support in developing and implementing those plans,” he said.

He added that English language learners continue to make progress as this has been an area of focus for the division.

“This seems to validate the notion that resources, additional English language teachers in the budget, dedicated to an area of challenge does provide payoffs since the performance of students who are English learners continued to improve last year,” he said.

He added that other areas still need to secure additional funding, such as division curriculum leaders in English, reading and mathematics.

“This summer we invested in more consistent literacy curriculum across our schools. As part of their summer efforts, teachers created and in some cases fine-tuned curriculum materials to include curriculum pacing guides, and guidance documents on approaches to literacy instruction such as guided reading and word study. Our annual professional development initiatives provide similar focus and also include continued ‘unpacking’ of the curriculum, which is delving more deeply into the intent of specific curriculum standards,” he said.

Warren County

All of Warren County Public Schools are fully accredited this year except for Ressie Jeffries Elementary School, which is partially accredited, approaching the benchmark pass rate. The school has surpassed the math testing accreditation threshold by 4 percentage points, but is 2 percentage points behind the English testing threshold.

Skyline High School will be fully accredited this year after being partially accredited, approaching the benchmark pass rate last year. The English testing pass rate for the 2015-2016 year was 3 percentage points higher than the accreditation benchmark, and the math rate was 7 points above the benchmark.

E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School is fully accredited this year despite being 9 percentage points below the English testing accreditation rate. Senate Bill 368, which passed this year in the General Assembly, allows schools that have been fully accredited for three years in a row to retain that status for three more years.

Superintendent Greg Drescher stated in an email that since E. Wilson Morrison is fully accredited, there’s no required action from the state. Still, plans for improvement at the school remain the same.

“‘Continuous improvement’ is a mindset that we talk about and act on all of the time in our school system,” he stated.

Frederick County

Four Frederick County schools are not fully accredited this year. With rising SOL test pass rates, Gainesboro and Stonewall elementaries and James Wood Middle School are partially accredited, approaching the benchmark pass rate. Gainesboro is within 1 percentage point of reaching the benchmark in English test pass rates, while Stonewall and James Wood are both within 2 points of reaching the same benchmark.

Redbud Run Elementary has been designated as a partially accredited warned school. When it comes to the math SOLs, 73 percent of students passed last school year, which means the school has met the benchmark for that test. However, 70 percent of students passed the English test, which is still not within the “narrow” margin to be considered approaching the benchmark.

According to a news release from Frederick County Public Schools, the Department of Education designated Frederick County Middle School as a partially accredited, reconstituted school in January. The school is 2 percentage points away from the English testing pass rate benchmark and 1 point away from the math testing benchmark. The Virginia Board of Education will determine the school’s status later this month.

James Angelo, assistant superintendent for instruction, stated in an email that Frederick County Middle School hasn’t been accredited in reading for four years.

“We continue a focus on instructional practices that support improved student learning, and by moving into the new facility that was designed to meet learning needs, we are confident FCMS will meet accreditation benchmarks for next year,” he stated.

Two Frederick County schools, Redbud Run and Middletown elementary schools, have been identified as focus schools this year. This number is down from five focus schools last year.

Middletown is required to remain a focus school for an additional year after named a focus school last year, although its scores have met accreditation benchmarks. This will be the third consecutive year that Redbud Run will be a focus school. Angelo said that administration is confident that the two will move out of that status.

“A focus on instructional practices and a tiered system of support for students has proven successful as we have moved other schools out of Focus School status,” he stated.

Superintendent David Sovine brought out in the release that in two years, the division has gone from nine to 13 fully accredited schools and from nine warned schools to one warned school.

“The progress that is being made across the school division is a result of staff being relentlessly focused on student learning through evidence-based teaching practices,” he said.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com

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