New state accreditation standards were released Tuesday (Sept. 16) by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), and report that the total number of full accreditation declined for a second year. However, Rappahannock County Elementary School, which was assigned an “accredited with warning” status last year, is now fully accredited.
Accreditation is handed down by the VDOE and is determined by students’ performances on Standards of Learning (SOL) tests and other exams in the areas of English, math, history and science.
According to the report, only 68 percent (or 1,246) of Virginia’s 1,827 school public schools received a full accreditation status — a decline from last year’s 77 percent. Meanwhile, the number of “accredited with warning” schools rose to 545, an increase from last year’s 393.
Happily, superintendent Donna Matthews said Tuesday afternoon, that number no longer includes the elementary school, which suffered from low math SOL scores last year. Rappahannock is now one of only 22 (of Virginia’s 132) school divisions to earn full accreditation. (That number also represents a decline; last year, 36 school divisions were fully accredited.)
“For the 2014-15 school year, we are among 22 divisions which are ‘fully accredited’ —- the top 17 percent of school divisions in Virginia,” said Matthews. “Our efforts and school improvement process is working . . . I salute the hard work of the staff as we continue to reach for high expectations and career readiness for our students.”
The decline is due, at least in part, to the growing impact of more rigorous reading, writing, science and mathematics SOL tests introduced since 2011, the report states. Virginia students began taking more challenging mathematics assessments in 2011-2012, and more challenging reading, writing and science tests the following year.
Ten schools in six divisions were denied state accreditation this year. For a school to earn full accreditation, at least 75 percent of students must pass reading and writing SOL tests, and at least 70 percent must pass state assessments in mathematics, science and history. High schools must also meet a benchmark for graduation and completion.