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Accreditation ratings vary

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) released its school accreditation ratings Wednesday, citing three schools in the Heart of Virginia as being denied accreditation and three schools receiving the status of “Fully Accredited.”

The VDOE also announced federal designations with accountability requirements focused on schools that receive Title I funding to support services for economically disadvantaged students.

Both federal and VDOE ratings are primarily based on Standards of Learning (SOL) tests administered in the 2016-17 school year.

“For a school to earn full accreditation, students must achieve adjusted pass rates of at least 75 percent in English and at least 70 percent on assessments in mathematics, science and history,” VDOE officials said in a press release. “High schools must also meet a benchmark for graduation and completion. Accreditation ratings may also reflect an average of achievement over several years.”

Buckingham County Primary School (BCPS), Buckingham County Elementary School (BCES) and Buckingham County Middle School were denied accreditation for not meeting English benchmarks. Buckingham County High School (BCHS) received the status of “Fully Accredited.”

Dr. Cecil Snead

Division Superintendent Dr. Cecil Snead said the division has been working hard on readjusting its reading approach since May 19 when testing data started returning at the elementary school level.

“Teachers attended rigorous workshops during the summer months to enhance their craft,” Snead said. “While we also need to continue focus on reading at the middle school, we are more strategically focusing on writing to help with the all student pass rate in English.”

Snead said the division was fortunate that they are only short of the all student pass rate benchmark in one area. He noted while the primary school does not administer SOL tests, it receives the same rating as the elementary school.

“This is unfortunate because we get two denied accreditation statuses instead of one, (rather than) if we housed (grades) K-5 in one … school,” Snead said.

Snead said he was meeting Wednesday with the school board to demonstrate that the division’s successes far exceed its challenges with regard to state assessments even though the accreditation labels don’t imply such.

BCES and BCPS were previously denied accreditation in November based on the previous year’s test scores while BCHS received the status of “Fully Accredited,” and BCMS was cited as “Partially Accredited: Warned School-Pass Rate.”

Cumberland County Elementary School (CCES) and Cumberland County High School (CCHS) received the status of “Fully Accredited” while Cumberland County Middle School (CCMS) received a status of “To Be Determined” for not meeting English, mathematics and science benchmarks.

Dr. Amy Griffin

“We are pleased that both CCES and CCHS are ‘Fully Accredited’ by VDOE standards and have met all federal benchmarks,” said Division Superintendent Dr. Amy Griffin. “We are particularly excited with the significant academic gains made over the past two years at the elementary school partly due to implementing a balanced literacy approach, aligning instruction and increasing student engagement.”

Griffin said the division is cautiously optimistic that CCMS will be deemed “Partially Accredited: Reconstituted.”

“This overall academic improvement reflects the hard work of all our stakeholders, including students, faculty, staff, parents and our supportive community members,” Griffin said.

Last year, CCES and CCMS were rated as “Partially Accredited: Reconstituted,” and CCHS was listed as “Fully Accredited” in November based on the previous year’s test scores.

Prince Edward County Middle School (PECMS) and Prince Edward County Elementary School (PECES) received the status of “To Be Determined” for not meeting English benchmarks while Prince Edward County High School (PECHS) received the status of “Partially Accredited: Warned School-Pass Rate.”

PECHS did not meet the state required mathematics benchmark.

According to the VDOE release, the status of 92 schools in the state at risk of being denied accreditation will be determined by the state board of education later this year.

“Under Virginia’s current accountability regulations, a school that has not earned full accreditation for three consecutive years — and fails to meet state standards for a fourth consecutive year — can apply for a rating of Partially Accredited: Reconstituted School if the local school board agrees to reconstitute the school’s leadership, staff, governance or student population,” VDOE officials said in the release. “A reconstituted school can retain this rating for up to three years if it is making acceptable progress.”

Last year, PECES was listed as “Partially Accredited: Reconstituted,” PECMS was listed as “Partially Accredited: Warned School-Pass Rate” and PECHS was listed as “Fully Accredited” in November based on the previous year’s test scores.

The release cited PECMS is a focus school and BCPS and BCES are priority schools as designated by federal benchmarks.

“Focus schools must employ state-approved, school-improvement coaches,” officials said in the VDOE release. “Focus schools retain their designation for a minimum of two years unless they no longer receive federal Title I funding.”

The release cited that priority schools must design and implement school-reform models that meet state and federal requirements.

Priority schools are identified as the lowest achieving five percent of Title I schools based on the performance of all students in reading and/or mathematics on federal annual measurable objectives.

The VDOE website cites that per the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 flexibility waiver provisions, 10 percent of Virginia’s Title I schools (72) are identified as focus schools based on reading and mathematics achievement of students in the three proficiency gap groups. According to the VDOE website, Title I schools with one or more proficiency gap groups not meeting performance expectations in reading and mathematics will be considered for inclusion in the focus school category. Title I schools with one or more proficiency gap groups failing to meet the 95 percent participation rate in reading and/or mathematics will also be considered for inclusion in the focus school category.