Schools accreditation mixed

September 17, 2014

By AMANDA ALDERMAN - Bulletin Staff Writer 

Ten of the 14 schools in Henry County are fully accredited, and four are accredited with warning, according to information released Tuesday by the Virginia Department of Education.  

School accreditation ratings are based on Standards of Learning (SOL) tests taken last school year. To be fully accredited, at least 75 percent of a school’s students must pass reading and writing SOLs, and at least 70 percent must pass math, science and history/social science tests.

According to a news release from the county schools, “In recent years, Virginia’s SOL tests and state benchmarks for achieving a passing score have become more rigorous.” 

Education officials have attributed poorer results statewide in recent years — 68 percent of the state’s schools were fully accredited this year, down from 77 percent last year and 93 percent two years ago, The Associated Press reported — to that increased rigor.

One county school, Mt. Olivet Elementary, achieved full accreditation one year after being accredited with warning. Passing rates on math SOLs increased from 54 percent in the 2012-13 school year to 72.9 percent in 2013-14, the release said. 

“The Mt. Olivet staff worked collaboratively to examine specific areas of strengths and weaknesses,” school Principal Beth Minter said in the release. “By zeroing in on specific skills that students were struggling to master, teachers were able to provide better learning experiences for the students (including remediation, incorporating new instructional strategies and additional practice).”

Things the school did to improve include focused professional development, collaborative planning, curriculum alignment, standards review, school improvement planning and technical assistance provided by the state department of education, the release said. 

“Curriculum alignment” refers to making sure that what teachers present in class matches what will be expected of students on the SOL tests, said Monica Adams Hatchett, coordinator for family and community engagement for the county schools.

To align the curriculum, teachers first must examine each component of a particular standard. Hatchett said, for example, that one SOL may have four parts, so teachers must make sure their students are learning everything they need to successfully complete each part. 

The four county schools that were not fully accredited missed the benchmarks by between 1 and 4 percentage points, the release said. According to the release, areas where the schools lagged, based on preliminary results, include:

• Stanleytown Elementary missed the benchmark for English by 2 percent (based on the three-year average) and the math benchmark by 3 percent. 

• Both Fieldale-Collinsville and Laurel Park missed the math benchmark by 1 percent. Laurel Park also missed the English benchmark by 2 percent.

• Magna Vista missed the math benchmark by 2 percent but met all required passing rates for graduation, English, science and history/social science. 

All four schools “will undergo academic reviews during the 2014-2015 school year and will be expected to implement research-based practices in order to increase student achievement in the areas of English and mathematics,” the release said.

In addition to school accreditation information, the state on Tuesday released data on Federal Annual Measurable Objectives (FAMO). These measures replace Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) targets that schools previously were required to meet, the county release said. 

According to the release, “Overall, Henry County Public Schools met 44 of 45, or 98 percent, of the FAMO indicators, which is a substantial increase from the previous year. HCPS also met all 18 participation indicators. All English performance indicators were met and eight of nine math performance indicators were met as well. In addition, HCPS met the four-year graduation rate indicators.”

Seven schools met all federal AMOs: Axton, Bassett, Campbell Court, Drewry Mason, Mt. Olivet, Rich Acres and Sanville. The remaining seven schools did not meet all AMOs: Carver, Collinsville Primary, Fieldale-Collinsville, John Redd, Laurel Park, Magna Vista and Stanleytown. 

The latter schools will be required to develop and implement school improvement plans.

“We are very proud of progress made in many areas and are implementing plans to address areas where there is work to be done,” said Superintendent Jared Cotton. “It is encouraging that, in many cases, Henry County students achieved passing rates at or above the state passing rates.” 

Several strategies are in place to help increase student achievement, the release said. In addition to school improvement plans, all schools will use Indistar, an online system of assessment and accountability, to monitor and evaluate improvement efforts. To address math performance, math teachers have participated in professional development focused on inquiry-based teaching, the release said.

“Teacher leaders have been identified at each school and will be instrumental in providing focused, school-based professional development related to analyzing data, effective assessment practices, and research-based instructional strategies,” it added. 

“MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) testing is also being used across the division to measure student growth and plan for differentiated instruction,” the release said. “In addition, a new curriculum has been implemented for English and mathematics to align classroom instruction to the rigor of the new SOL assessments.”

With the MAP test results, teachers can differentiate — or tailor — instruction based on their students’ needs. 

Cotton noted that the division is committed to helping every student succeed.

“Student achievement is much more than a singular measure,” he said. “We are dedicated to working toward the success of every learner.” 


Select News Year: