Buckingham County schools keep showing growth

Published 12:12 am Monday, September 18, 2023

For the fifth straight year, Buckingham County High was fully accredited with no conditions. For the first time in several years, Buckingham Elementary also earned that designation. But while the district saw significant growth in test scores, it also ran into some challenges, especially at the middle school level. District officials say they recognize the issues facing Buckingham County schools and are working to address them. 

“We feel that the division, with this continued growth, will have all schools with full accreditation in two years,” said Buckingham Superintendent Dr. John Keeler. “We are focused on reading and writing across the curriculum as well as working to increase our daily attendance.” 

Highlights from Buckingham County schools

But first, let’s start with the highlights. Buckingham High certainly has some. The school reported its highest English pass rate since before the pandemic, as 83% of students passed the test. Last year, that number was at 80%. The same was true in math, hitting higher than even the pre-COVID scores. In 2019, 73% of students at Buckingham High passed math. In 2023, that number reached 87%. The only challenge for the school comes in science, where only 60% of students passed. That’s been an issue long before the pandemic, with Buckingham High unable to get more than a 68% pass rate in the test since before 2018. 

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The other challenge for Buckingham County High is one its neighboring district in Prince Edward can relate to. The chronic absenteeism rate is climbing, having hit 36% last year. And to be clear, that means 36% of Buckingham High students missed at least 10% of classes during the 2022-23 school year. It’s a slight bump, up from 34% in 2021-22 and is a dramatic spike from what the school saw pre-pandemic, when chronic absenteeism was at 21%.  

The numbers also looked good at Buckingham Elementary. In two of the three main categories, math and English, students exceeded state standards. In math, 77% of Buckingham Elementary students passed the test. To be clear, that’s the highest percentage for the school in more than five years. English test takers also improved, with 78% passing. To put that in perspective, only 67% passed back in 2019. 

The only classroom struggle came in science, where just 50% of the elementary students passed. While that’s higher than last year’s 41%, it’s still not quite back to pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, 62% of Buckingham Elementary students passed the test. 

Middle school in trouble 

The district’s main problem seems to be at Buckingham County Middle School, which was barely accredited with conditions. Both English and science scores are below the state standard, and chronic absenteeism is a problem here as well. 

In English, the numbers keep dropping. Last year, 67% of Buckingham Middle students passed the state test. This time around, that number fell to 58%, the lowest it’s been in more than five years. Math scores crashed as well, going from 84% last year to 65% this time around. And while the numbers did slightly climb in science, where 57% passed last year and 60% did so this time, it still wasn’t enough to meet the state standard. 

At Buckingham Middle, 28% of students missed at least 10% of classes. The good news is that’s down slightly from last year, when it was 30%. It’s still a dramatic increase from pre-pandemic times. In 2019, for example, 20% of students were chronically absent at the school. 

Keeler said the district staff recognized the issues. But in order to improve, students have to show up for school. 

“We are committed to closing the learning gaps and we need our students here each day,” Keeler said.