State releases official school accreditation results

The Virginia Department of Education released accreditation results for state schools on Wednesday.

The results verified expectations that Ressie Jeffries Elementary School in Warren County and North Fork Middle School and W.W. Robinson Elementary School would have their accreditation denied for the 2017-2018 school year.

In Frederick County, three schools – Frederick County Middle School, Gainesboro Elementary School and Redbud Elementary School – do not yet have official accreditation ratings. Jim Angelo, assistant superintendent for Frederick County Schools, said that those schools have applied for a status of “reconstituted school,” designed for schools that have been improving but have not met state benchmark scores.

The Department of Education has not yet determined which schools would meet the reconstituted status.

The results put schools in this area slightly behind state averages. Around 70 percent of schools in Warren, Frederick and Shenandoah counties will receive full accreditation for the next school year. By contrast, 86 percent of schools across the state are set to be fully accredited next year.

English proved to be a particular difficulty for schools, both in the region and across the state. Out of the 34 schools that received testing results in English, 22 met the state’s benchmark standards.

In the state as a whole, English had the lowest pass rate of any subject.

The official accreditation ratings the state released Wednesday point to difficulty Frederick County and Warren County Schools have had in meeting benchmark standards in English.

According to the accreditation results, five of Frederick County’s 18 schools and three of the seven schools in Warren County for which the state has official results failed to meet the English standards. (The results did not include either of Warren County’s middle schools.)

According to the results from the state, Redbud Elementary School and Gainesboro Elementary School were one point shy of the 75-point cutoff in English. Middletown Elementary School received a 73 in English, and Frederick County Middle School received a 72 in the subject.

Frederick County Schools all met the math, history, science and graduation standards.

Angelo said that the results point to an excessive focus by the Virginia Department of Education on the Standards of Learning tests. The accreditation rating of schools is almost entirely linked to these tests, with the caveat that high schools, in addition to passing the tests, have to do well on a graduation index.

Only 14 of Virginia’s 329 public high schools failed to meet that graduation standard.

“[Standards of Learning] tests are an important measure of accountability, but other things are also important measures,” Angelo said.

In particular, Angelo said he would hope the state would look closer at “school climate and how we engage our parents, how we engage our school communities.”

Angelo said that Frederick County is working on making district-wide changes aimed in part at increasing those scores.

“We’re looking at providing specific and explicit feedback to students,” Angelo said.

That includes giving in-depth feedback on essays that students submit.

Angelo said that the district is also aiming to focus on improving the vocabulary of students across the district.

But that instruction is not intended to only improve students’ reading and writing skills, Angelo said. The focus on vocabulary and providing in-depth feedback, he said, will also help them in other subjects.

“Better vocabulary means [students are] stronger in social studies as well,” Angelo said.

Angelo said that Frederick County Schools is focusing on making changes that they hope will help students in every school and every subject–not just in the places and subject areas where students have been struggling.

“Really, we’re focusing on instruction,” Angelo said. “We’re not focusing on content-specific learning.”

Angelo added that he didn’t think the testing results were entirely indicative of the schools’ performance. In particular, he noted that the schools that failed to meet accreditation were close to meeting standards for full accreditation.

“We had schools that didn’t meet the accreditation benchmark that were three or four kids short of accreditation,” Angelo said.

In Warren County, English scores also proved to be the most difficult for the district. Ressie Jeffries Elementary School, Skyline High School and E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School all failed to meet the English standards.

The only Warren County School that failed to meet the state standards in a subject other than English was Ressie Jeffries, which received a 61 in science.

Ressie Jeffries and Skyline High School both neared the state’s benchmark standards in English, receiving scores of 72 and 73, respectively. E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School received a score of 66.

E. Wilson Morrison will maintain its full accreditation status because of scores from previous years.

In an email, Warren County Schools superintendent Greg Drescher stated that the district is “revamping” its Literacy Plan in an effort to make district-wide improvements to English scores.

In addition, the email stated, “We are revamping our Literacy Plan which addresses how reading and English is taught division wide.”

Shenandoah County public schools had two of its nine schools denied accreditation for the 2017-2018 school year.

North Fork Middle School and W.W. Robinson Elementary School both were denied accreditation, according to a release Wednesday from the  Virginia Department of Education. This was the fourth year both schools did not meet all benchmarks. Peter Muhlenberg Middle school received partial accreditation. A bright spot for the district was that Signal Knob Middle school received full accreditation after being declared partially accredited last year.

“It is my personal goal to achieve accreditation within a year,” said Superintendent Mark Johnston.

That is the goal but he realizes it could take a couple years for students to catch up to where their education levels need to be.

The announcement by the state  was no surprise to the district, which in July gave early indications showing they would not meet all the benchmarks in all the schools.

Accreditation ratings are based on whether a school had enough students pass Standards of Learning tests in the areas of math, reading, science and history.

The district soon began working on plans to improve student performance. Teachers and administrators are committed to even more expansive efforts, Johnston said.

The district, as part of its improvement plan, has added personnel and made changes to the curriculum. Changes in classroom assessments now give administrators and teachers more timely progress reports on student performance. Johnston also has been identifying gaps in classroom resources and materials.

A 75 percent in reading and a 70 percent in math, social studies and science are needed to achieve full accreditation.

North Fork failed to achieve a passing score in reading.

North Fork scores were as follows:

Reading: 69 percent

Math: 79 percent

Social Studies: 78 percent

Science: 77 percent

W.W. Robinson did not meet reading, math and science benchmarks.

W.W. Robinson scores were as follows:

Reading: 67 percent

Math: 66 percent

Social Studies: 77 percent

Science: 57 percent, down from last year’s score of 70 percent

“That is a big drop,” Johnston said.

“I attribute the science score to an increased focus on math and reading.”

Eighty-eight schools in 27 divisions statewide were denied state accreditation for 2017-2018 because of persistently low student achievement.