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Locally, eight schools -- including William Fleming High School -- were accredited with warning.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
New, more difficult tests were a challenge for Virginia schools, including locally, where eight Roanoke schools were accredited with warning, and in other divisions, which saw some schools fall short after full accreditation last year .
In Roanoke, seven elementary schools and William Fleming High School are accredited with warning, according to results released Friday.
Accreditation is the state’s accountability system and is based on pass rates on Standards of Learning tests in four core subject areas during the previous school year or an average of pass rates in the past three years. High schools are also scrutinized by their graduation rate.
Schools can be fully accredited, accredited with warning or denied accreditation.
Last year Fleming was the only Roanoke school to be labeled accredited with warning. Even though the school once more finds itself without full accreditation, it has shown progress. Last year Fleming didn’t post a high enough graduation rate and failed to meet pass rates in math and social studies. This year only its math scores kept it from full accreditation.
This is the third year the school has been accredited with warning, introducing the possibility of being denied accreditation and possibly taken over by the state next year.
Roanoke Superintendent Rita Bishop said she believes that will not happen because the school system has placed resources at Fleming and the schools’ students already have shown marked improvement in math. She said the math pass rate rose 12 points from last year.
“They have made tremendous strides in mathematics,” Bishop said. “I’m just extremely impressed by the work they’ve done.”
When math performance looked bleak in the middle of last school year, Bishop took the unusual step of placing some central office staffers at Fleming to teach math.
“You do what you have to do. You have to make midpoint corrections when benchmark data illustrates things aren’t going as you wished they’d gone,” Bishop said. “For the most part they did two jobs and they were terrific about it.”
When asked if that was sustainable, Bishop said she doesn’t anticipate having to take that step again, but would if it were necessary. She said a former math supervisor is embedded at the school, and that there are math coaches as well as strong leadership and strong math teachers.
Roanoke’s other schools accredited with warning were: Roanoke Academy, Garden City, Hurt Park, Lincoln Terrace, Morningside, Round Hill and Westside elementary schools.
With the exception of Hurt Park Elementary School, the schools missed accreditation because of reading and writing scores. For Hurt Park the issue was reading, writing and math.
“Hurt Park, which is the only elementary with a math problem — I attribute that to a variety of issues, including leadership,” Bishop said.
The school has a new principal this school year.
Bishop also emphasized something that she has stressed before: that the performance in reading and writing was lower because some students are without access to technology at home and had difficulty with the computerized tests.
Bishop said RCPS+, the system’s new extended learning program that launched this summer, addressed some of that by giving students access to computers. Steps also are being taken this school year.
“We are writing every single day using a computer. We are practicing drop-down menus,” she said. “It’s knowing what’s on the test and having access.”
She said in October the school system also plans to begin releasing computers to students for use at home.
Elsewhere, some local divisions that had all schools accredited last year did not clear that hurdle this time around. Craig and Botetourt counties as well as Radford went from all schools meeting the benchmarks to each having one school that did not. Each system had a single school miss accreditation because of math scores.
In Bedford and Montgomery counties, students continued to struggle in math. Montgomery County officials issued a news release Tuesday stating the system has put interventions in place to help with math, including math coaches to help teachers.
More schools falling short wasn’t an issue limited to Southwest Virginia. Across the state the number of schools meeting the state’s standards dropped dramatically, with 77 percent of schools earning full accreditation compared with 93 percent last year.
“Over the last five years, the accreditation bar has been raised through the introduction of more rigorous curriculum standards and challenging new assessments that test students’ problem-solving and critical-thinking skills as well as their content knowledge,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia Wright said in a statement.
Educators from the state to the local level have been quick to note in recent years that tests have been revised to make them more rigorous. Two years ago math assessments were amended, and this spring students took new reading, writing and science tests.
Many schools relied on the three-year average last year for accreditation, which counteracted the hit schools took with the new math tests. According to information from the state, last year 750 schools m et the math requirement using the three-year average, but this year that number was 257.
“With another year of the new math being assessed, it pulls that three-year average down,” said Mark Blankenship, Bedford County’s supervisor of assessment and planning.
He said math played a role in all but one of the Bedford schools that didn’t make the grade. Blakenship said last year the system had 16 fully accredited schools and this year just nine.
“We are certainly feeling some pressure to increase the scores,” he said.
Last year the division added math coaches. There also have been scheduling changes to increase the amount of time devoted to math.
Even with challenges in math, all schools in some local divisions are fully accredited. Floyd, Franklin, Giles and Roanoke counties, as well as Salem, had all of their schools fully accredited.
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