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Schools Accredited

PRINCE EDWARD – It is different than achieving the new federal AMOs, but Prince Edward County's three schools have all achieved state accreditation.

“The really good news…is that all three schools are fully accredited,” Division Superintendent Dr. David Smith commented after an October school board presentation. “It's the first time in two years.”

His remarks were met with applause.

Schools receive two ratings, one regarding the new Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs), which-with a federal waiver-replaces the No Child Left Behind mandates for performance and accreditation ratings from the state.

Twelve federal annual measurable objectives factor student performance in math and English in standardized tests (SOLs) and look to the performance of subgroups as well as achievement gaps and graduation standards. State accreditation, however, factors SOL test performance in English, math, history and science at the three schools as well as the graduation completion index for the high school.

State accreditation looks at the performance of all students and does not break it down to the subgroup level; there are two ways to achieve accreditation-through the performance of the current year or a three-year average.

Elementary

The elementary school, fully accredited last year, continues with that status in state assessment.

Students achieved the benchmark in all areas at the elementary level. English performance (with a 75 percent benchmark) achieved 77 percent for the current year and 75 percent for the three year average; math performance, with a 70 percent benchmark, although short with 57 percent for the current year (where a revamped test in the subject was given across the state), reached the three-year average with 74 percent; third grade history (with a 50 percent benchmark) achieved 89 percent for the current year and a three-year average of 81 percent. Third grade science scores were also solid, scoring well above the 50 percent benchmark for the current year at 87 percent and with a three-year 86 percent average.

Middle School

Middle school English fifth grade English scores achieved a 77 percent passing rate for the year and 79 for the three-year average with both above the 75 percent benchmark; English scores for grades 6-8 were at 87 percent for the year and the three-year average and above the 70 percent benchmark; math scores were at 68 percent, or just short of the 70 percent benchmark for the year, but achieved a three-year average of 80 percent; history achieved an 83 percent pass rate for the year and 86 percent for the three-year average, with both above the 70 percent benchmark; and science scores achieved 86 percent for the year and 88 percent for the three year average, also both above the 70 percent benchmark.

Like the elementary school, the middle school was also fully accredited in the previous year.

The superintendent offered that they are really proud that the middle school has come from school improvement status.

“They've achieved full accreditation and that shows very, very strong improvement there by the entire team at the middle school,” Dr. Smith said. “And they are to be commended for their hard work over a long period of time as well.”

High School

The high school, which has been designated as a turnaround school, last year was “provisionally accredited” from the state because of the graduation completion index. The school fell just short, having scored 82 in the graduation completer index, or short of the 85 benchmark. This year, the school achieved an 88 score. (The state graduation figure is compiled differently than the federal figure.)

“The fact that our graduation rate last year improved that much was the result of some very hard work by a large number of the high school staff with individual students to get them to a point of success in getting them across the stage successfully in May,” Dr. Smith commented. “So, we're very appreciative of the hard work of the high school staff in that regard and it did make a difference in the accreditation of the school.”

In other scores, English achieved a 91 percent pass rate for the current year and a three-year average of 88 percent-both above the 70 percent benchmark; math scores were split, achieving a passing rate of 67 percent for the year, or just short of the 70 percent benchmark, but the 77 percent three-year average met the goal; history scores were above the 70 percent benchmark in the current year at 79 percent and the three-year average of 78 percent; and science scores were solidly above the 70 percent benchmark at 92 percent for the current year and with a three-year average of 83 percent.

An Appeal

The elementary school (as previously reported) was deemed a Focus School with the AMOs, the middle school only missed the “All Students” category for reading and must develop an improvement plan, and the high school, which is in its last year as a transformation school, is automatically identified as a priority school.

Across Virginia, 36 schools have been designated priority schools and, according to a state department of education press release, must engage state-approved turnaround partners to help design and implement school reform models meeting state and federal requirements.

Ten percent of Virginia's schools-or 72 Title I schools have been identified Focus Schools and must employ a state approved coach to help develop, implement and monitor intervention strategies.

And, while the elementary was deemed to have qualified as a Focus School under the criteria, school officials took issue with the way the formula was used to designate the school.

Focus Schools are identified by one or more proficiency gap groups not meeting performance expectations in reading and math; ten percent of Title I schools with the most significant proficiency gaps in reading and math were given the status. The gap groups include (one) students with disabilities, English language learners and economically disadvantaged students and (two) black students, not of Hispanic origin, including those with disabilities, and English disadvantaged students and (three) Hispanic students of one or more races including those with disabilities, English language learners and economically disadvantaged students.

“The basis for the appeal is that the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) used a non-valid and non-reliable formula to rank-order lowest performing schools in reading and math to calculate proficiency gap points,” the superintendent wrote in a September 6 letter to the agency.

Excluding one subject area from the calculation of proficiency gap points may have determined the designation of the school as a Focus School, it was noted.

A written response to the appeal from the Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Patricia Wright, however, outlined: “The U.S. Department of Education has approved Virginia's methodology for determining gap points as being valid; therefore, the committee does not agree that a change in status is warranted for Prince Edward Elementary School, and the status will remain at 'Did Not Make Federal AMOs.'”