Virginia released accreditation ratings. Here’s how Prince Edward schools did.

Published 1:18 am Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Schools in Prince Edward County continue to show growth. That’s what the data from this year’s accreditation reports show. The ratings were released Friday, Sept. 8, showing significant improvements in some areas. But it wasn’t enough to meet or exceed state standards, as no Prince Edward schools were fully accredited without conditions this time. 

The Virginia Department of Education decides if an individual school is accredited, or meets state standards, based on six categories. The state looks at a school’s English pass rate, English achievement gaps, math pass rate, math achievement gaps, science pass rate and if there is chronic absenteeism. If a school doesn’t meet state standards for multiple years, then the Department of Education steps in to help determine what’s needed to address the issues. 

Absenteeism hits Prince Edward Elementary 

Last year was a good one for Prince Edward Elementary. The school was fully accredited without conditions, the only one in the Prince Edward district to achieve that. The story is mostly the same again this time around. The school still beat the state average in both math and science. But a rise in chronic absenteeism, students just not showing up for class, caused the school to lose its status. Prince Edward Elementary was still accredited, but with conditions. 

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Let’s talk about those absentee numbers. A total of 29.55% of students attending Prince Edward Elementary were chronically absent for the 2022-23 school year. That means out of 704 students at the school, 208 missed either 10% of classes or higher. It’s an increase from 190 who were chronically absent last year. 

When it came to the actual classroom, students continued to excel. In math, the percentage of those who passed or showed improvement on the state test went from 88% last year to 84% this time around. That’s still above the state average of 70%, so no problems there. In English, 80% of those who took the test at Prince Edward Elementary either passed or showed significant improvement. That’s down from 83% last year, but still above the state average of 75%. 

Numbers improve at middle school  

Over at Prince Edward Middle, it was a case of good news and bad news. The good news is that in most subjects, students showed growth, improving over last year’s scores. The bad news is that it still wasn’t enough to meet or pass the state average. The school was accredited but with conditions. 

In the 2021-22 school year, science scores were horrible at Prince Edward Middle. Only 42% of students passed or showed significant improvement. This past year, that number spiked, with 56% meeting that benchmark. That’s still far below the state average of 70%. The same goes in English, where 71% of students passed, compared to 70% last year. That falls just short of the state average, however, which is 75%.

Math is the only subject where Prince Edward Middle saw scores drop. A total of 68% of students passed this year, compared to 70% last year. As a result, the school fell just below the state average, which was also 70%. Chronic absenteeism continues to be a problem here as well, with 30.56% of Prince Edward Middle students missing at least 10% of classes. If there is a positive, it’s the fact that number is slightly down from the 30.9% of last year, 165 students versus 169. 

Looking at Prince Edward High 

And then there are the high school’s numbers to discuss. Out of the nine state indicators, the school ranked below the standard in four of them. In fact, the only place where Prince Edward High beat the state standard was English. Math and science were below state standards and, like other schools in the district, the high school struggled with absenteeism. 

And all of that may sound like the school is in trouble, but it’s not. Across the board, Prince Edward High saw improvement, sometimes dramatically so, over last year’s results. The biggest change came in the chronic absenteeism category. Last year, 47.74% of students at the high school missed at least 10% of classes. This year, that percentage fell to 30.15%, the lowest it’s been since 2019. 

It was the same in English, where Prince Edward High beat the state average for the first time since 2019, with 78% passing, compared to 71% last year. The state average is 75%. Science scores also saw a significant increase, boosting almost 10 points year-over-year. In 2022, only 48% of students at the high school passed the state science test. This time, that number was up to 55%. Math was the only area where scores took a dip from last year, with 61% passing, compared to 63%. 

‘An upward trajectory’ for Prince Edward schools

Prince Edward superintendent Dr. Barbara Johnson said she recognizes the need for continued improvement, but is happy to see the growth, year over year. 

Overall, we continue to make progress and are on an upward trajectory,” Johnson told The Herald. “Having noted that, we also recognize that we still have areas in need of improvement, particularly in certain student groups.  We are taking a targeted approach per school to address those concerns.  Regarding chronic absenteeism, we need everyone to assist us in ensuring that children come to school.  Chronic absenteeism impacts not only attendance but also student achievement.”