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Student subgroups fall short

Published 10:24pm Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The state will require all three Suffolk public high schools and two middle schools to implement school improvement plans after certain student subgroups failed to make the grade, district Deputy Superintendent Jacqueline Chavis has said.

King’s Fork High, Lakeland High, Nansemond River High, John Yeates Middle and King’s Fork Middle schools will all be required by the Virginia Department of Education to implement plans aimed at lifting student achievement.

While it was expected that King’s Fork and Lakeland, which this year were both accredited with warning, would be cited “due to certain subgroups not meeting the mark,” the outcome for Nansemond River has caught Suffolk Public Schools officials off guard, according to Chavis.

“That’s what we weren’t really prepared for,” she said of Nansemond River’s result on federal annual measurable objectives.

The new objectives and related accountability requirements were instituted this year as part of a waiver Virginia schools received from the federal government’s No Child Left Behind policy.

“We know that, overall, when we look at the graduation index for all of the three schools, they have increased,” Chavis continued. “We are graduating more kids on time overall. There are just certain subgroups that we have to pay certain attention to.”

Lakeland missed graduation benchmarks for the entire school, as well as subgroups including students with disabilities, the economically disadvantaged and students for whom English is a second language.

King’s Fork and Nansemond River missed the graduation benchmark for students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students and English-language learners.

The school improvement plans required by the state of the five schools will be implemented in tandem with plans the district already requires for all schools under its jurisdiction, Chavis said.

“We have always required our schools to submit school improvement plans each year,” she said.

“Even a school like Nansemond River High School, which made full accreditation requirements and did well on SOLs, still had to analyze” results to lift underperforming subgroups.

According to a department press release, no Suffolk schools are among the 36 in Virginia designated as “priority” schools or the 72 declared “focus” schools, which will require deeper interventions.

“Relief from unworkable federal mandates is welcome, but there must be no retreat from the goal of closing the achievement gap,” Gov. Bob McDonnell stated in the release.

“Every student has a right to attend a school where expectations for learning are high and there is accountability for results.”

AMOs reflect the percentage of students within each demographic subgroup that must attain math and reading SOL benchmarks in order to reduce achievement gaps over six years.

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