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More than 30% of Va. schools fail to win accreditation
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More than 30% of Va. schools fail to win accreditation

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More than 30 percent of Virginia’s public schools failed to meet full state accreditation standards last year, a performance 7 percentage points worse than last year.

In the annual report, released Tuesday by the Virginia Department of Education, 1,246 of the state’s 1,827 public schools earned full accreditation based on last year’s Standards of Learning results.

That was down from 1,413 of 1,828 schools the previous year , part of an expected trend of decreased achievement that began four years ago when the state began implementing tougher standards in core subjects.

This year, 545 were accredited with warning, up from 395 last year.

Of the 36 other schools, 10 were denied; 10 are new and don’t yet qualify; and two, both in Richmond, were provisionally accredited. The status of the remaining 14 will be determined by October.

The results were even worse in central Virginia.

In Richmond, only 11 of 45 schools made full accreditation, down from 13 that were fully accredited last year. Of the 34 others, 28 were accredited with warning, three have a status to be determined and Thompson Middle was denied. Huguenot and John Marshall high schools were provisionally accredited because they met all academic standards but had subpar on-time graduation rates.

“As a system, this is definitely not where we need to be,” said School Board Vice Chairwoman Kristen N. Larson. “When we look on a school-by-school basis, we can see things that are working. We need to focus on those.”

She said the school system is increasing its focus on making sure intervention efforts work and also on decreasing truancy.

“Truancy has had a huge impact, especially in middle and high school,” she said.

Henrico County also had a lower-than-normal showing, with Wilder Middle School being denied accreditation and 27 other schools accredited with warning. Last year, 17 schools were warned.

The news there prompted Superintendent Patrick Kinlaw to break from state practice and announce the county’s results last week, several days ahead of the statewide announcement.

“We released our own accreditation findings last week as we had a School Board meeting, and we wanted to reinforce the plans we put in place last year and for the current year,” Kinlaw said. “While there is much work to be done, we are seeing movement in the right direction.”

In Petersburg, Peabody Middle School was denied for the ninth straight year and A.P. Hill Elementary School for the second.

The fate of 14 other schools across the state, including Richmond’s Armstrong and Wythe high schools and Boushall Middle School, will be determined in October after state officials review turnaround plans submitted by local districts.

“The SOL tests students began taking 16 years ago established a uniform floor across the state. Now the floor is being raised so all students — regardless of where they live, who they are, or their family’s income — will have a foundation for success in an increasingly competitive economy,” State Board of Education President Christian N. Braunlich said in a statement. “These new tests represent higher expectations for our students and schools and meeting them will be a multiyear process.

Educators across the state expected the decline in full accreditation because of continuing struggles to meet tougher new academic standards that have been implemented in recent years.

Proving particularly troublesome this year was that some of the standards have now been in place three years, meaning the three-year averages on which accreditation can be based now reflect only the new standards.

“The challenge now is to move beyond the temporary disappointment of an accreditation rating and work together — school divisions shoulder to shoulder with the department — to share best practices and implement the instructional strategies that will move our students toward college and career readiness,” said Steven R. Staples, the state’s superintendent of public instruction.

Richmond Superintendent Dana T. Bedden said that while city students made gains in a range of assessments, the process of improving academic outcomes was still a work in progress.

“While we know that student success is more than just a singular measure, we must work diligently to ensure that our students’ performance not only meets, but exceeds, the expectations set forth by state guidelines,” he said in a statement.

“I commend the work of our students, staff, parents and community for the progress we have made thus far and remain confident in our ability to rise to the occasion with the changes we have already begun to put in place. Many of our schools showed great gains this year. The new test requirements for passing represent higher expectations for our students. For all of us in Virginia and in Richmond, meeting the mark will be a multiyear process.”

The news was better in Hanover County, where all but one of the county’s 23 schools earned full accreditation.

Patrick Henry High School missed the mark in math.

“One school accredited with warning is one too many,” said Michael Gill, Hanover’s assistant superintendent for instruction.

He said Patrick Henry students improved last year on algebra I and II but not enough to meet the state benchmark.

“Our teachers and students are doing a good job,” he said. “With more resources this year, the goal is to meet the mark.”

In Chesterfield County, 46 of 61 schools were fully accredited, and the others were accredited with warning.

“Having one-quarter of our schools accredited with warning means there is work to do,” Superintendent Marcus J. Newsome said in a statement. “But many scores from those 15 schools already show progress. For example, Marguerite Christian Elementary School’s math SOL score rose 7 points. That shows significant effort and achievement in just one year.”

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