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Accreditation is complicated

With Wednesday’s schools accreditation story, I learned some valuable lessons and came to two conclusions.

Lesson No. 1 — Research, research, research and thank goodness for reporters Carson Reeher and Jordan Miles. I’m man enough to accept when I miss something. In looking over one of my drafts, they noticed a few things that sent me back to my sources asking additional questions. Hey, this is important stuff and I want to get it right. Which leads me to…

Lesson No. 2 — Just because a school’s Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) report card says “Yes” on three subjects and some version of “No” on a fourth doesn’t mean the school is automatically partially accredited. Which is kind of weird because isn’t that what you’d naturally think? I’ve covered schools before, even reporting on something similar to Virginia’s accreditation system. In this particular case, though, a school was denied accreditation because it not only hadn’t met the fourth subject’s benchmarks, it hadn’t done so for three years — but its scores were improving.

Lesson No. 3 — Don’t forget the feds. Although I’d heard the terms “Priority School” and “Focus School” bandied about during my four or so months here, the material I was looking at didn’t directly touch on those labels. Miles and Reeher to the rescue to make sure I didn’t overlook this important tidbit.

The conclusion? Well, as my headline states, accreditation is complicated. More than that, though, I’m not sure it’s the fairest system in the world to use to tell parents how their kids’ schools are doing.

Why is VDOE penalizing schools that — with perhaps one exception — are doing just fine and working hard to get passing rates up?

Yes, we need measurements, but they need to make sense. I’m not sure this type of accountability does.

Martin L. Cahn is the managing editor of The Farmville Herald. His email address is martin.cahn@farmvilleherald.com.