A handful of schools in the Roanoke region and New River Valley did not receive full accreditation this year.
The Virginia Department of Education announced its annual ratings Monday for the 2019-20 school year. Across the state, 92% of schools earned a rating of accredited, while 7% were accredited with conditions.
Bedford, Franklin, Montgomery and Pulaski counties each had one school receive a rating of accredited with conditions. Last year, Pulaski County was the only school division of the four that lacked full accreditation in all of its schools.
In Bedford County, Liberty Middle School was accredited with conditions and scored below state standard for achievement gaps in English among black and Hispanic students, and students with disabilities.
Franklin County’s Gereau Center for Applied Technology & Career Exploration was below the state’s standard in achievement gaps in English among black students and students with disabilities.
Montgomery County’s Shawsville Middle School did not meet requirements in science, or for achievement gaps in English among economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities.
Pulaski Middle School received a below state standard score for achievement gaps in English among black students and students with disabilities.
Schools in Botetourt, Craig, Floyd, Giles and Roanoke counties, and the cities of Radford, Roanoke and Salem were fully accredited.
Statewide ratings show schools are making progress to reduce chronic absenteeism, but declines in performance on reading tests — especially among black and economically disadvantaged students — resulted in an increase in the number of schools that will receive state assistance to address achievement gaps in English, the state education department said.
Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing at least 10% of the school year. The measurement is one of the “school quality indicators” included in the state’s newest accreditation system, introduced last year. Other indicators include academic achievement, achievement gaps, graduation, completion and dropout rates.
Under the old system, ratings were based primarily on Virginia Standards of Learning exams.
Roanoke City Public Schools received full accreditation a year ago for the first time. Administrators projected a repeat based on preliminary data. Superintendent Rita Bishop said she’s pleased with the result but knows the school division must work to maintain the status.
Roanoke has focused on improving key areas, such as chronic absenteeism. The state counts students absent if they miss school for almost any reason, including out of school suspension. Homebound instruction is the only exception. Divisionwide, Roanoke improved its chronic absenteeism from 17.7% during the 2017-18 school year to 14.5% a year ago.
Out-of-school suspensions can lead to chronic absence. Bishop said the school system understands the importance of keeping students in school, and uses alternate discipline, such as in school suspension, when possible.
Roanoke offered Saturday school last year to help improve its attendance in its secondary schools. Participation was voluntary, according to the school system. Executive Director of School Improvement Julie Drewry said about 200 middle and high school students participated.
The state’s new accreditation system is “doing exactly what it was designed to do,” according to Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane.
“Last year’s ratings compelled school divisions to focus on the need to reduce chronic absenteeism, and their success in improving student attendance is reflected in the ratings for 2019-2020,” Lane said in a news release. “These latest ratings will help [the education department] target its efforts toward increasing student literacy and furthering progress toward eliminating achievement gaps in the schools that are most in need of the department’s support and expertise.”
The state rates schools as accredited, accredited with conditions or accreditation denied under the new system. Performance in academic achievement, achievement gaps and student engagement and outcomes are rated as level one, two or three.
Level one meets or exceeds standards or sufficient improvement; level two is near standard or sufficient improvement; and a level three score is below state standard.
If a school has one or more indicators at level three, the state rates it as accredited with conditions.
Every school in the state must develop a multiyear plan to support continuous improvement on each school quality indicator, regardless of performance.
The state will only deny accreditation to a school if it does not implement a required corrective action plan.
“The Board of Education is focused on ensuring that every child has an opportunity to reach his or her potential,” state board President Daniel Gecker said. The accreditation standards “focus local decision-making and resources on the board’s goal of reducing — and ultimately eliminating — achievement gaps while maintaining high standards for all students. This work, along with the work the board is currently doing on the Standards of Quality, advances the board’s equity agenda, as set forth in our adopted comprehensive plan.”