Suffolk schools gain accreditation

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 23, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

The State Board of Education voted Wednesday to toss out controversial 5th grade breakout social studies tests in determining school accreditation, a move that will nearly double the number of accredited schools in Suffolk.

Schools statewide that used the new 5th grade test almost universally saw abysmal performance, Suffolk School Superintendent Milton Liverman said Wednesday.


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The superintendent could not mask his disappointment last week when announcing the latest round of SOL test results, which resulted in two Suffolk schools losing their accreditation. The board’s action Wednesday restored accreditation to the two schools and saw three more elementary schools achieve accreditation for the first time.

While obviously pleased with the State Board’s decision, Liverman noted that it’s merely a one-year reprieve while officials review the controversial tests for fairness.

&uot;This doesn’t cure the problem,&uot; Liverman said. &uot;It’s just a one-year reprieve…but after the vote they took today, I’m not going to criticize them.&uot;

Since last week Liverman and his counterparts throughout the state have urged the State Board to review the tests.

He said social studies has been a challenging area for the state since the process began. In response, a new testing format was made available this year that called for testing in 4th, 5th and 6th and 7th grades.

&uot;About half the school systems in the state went to the new format and we all saw really abysmal performance,&uot; Liverman said. &uot;We knew it had to be something with the tests because we were not going to see that kind of universal result.&uot;

Suffolk’s list of accredited schools now includes: Mack Benn, Mt. Zion, Robertson, Kilby Sores, Driver, Florence Bowser, Northern Shores and Oakland elementary schools, as well as Forest Glen and John Yeates middle schools.

The only elementary schools yet to attain accreditation are Elephants Fork, Nansemond Parkway and Southwestern.

According to an e-mail Liverman received Wednesday from Juanita Tabor, senior administrative assistant to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, following the vote, the social studies tests were &uot;well-designed&uot; and extensively field tested.

&uot;Nevertheless, the fact that many school divisions are reporting unexpectedly low levels of achievement on the tests is cause for concern and suggests that an adjustment in the timeline for incorporating these tests into the accreditation process is warranted,&uot; the email read. &uot;In the coming weeks, the Department of Education will announce a series of technical assistance opportunities for history and social science teachers. A new Enhanced Standards of Learning Scope and Sequence resource document also will be made available online this summer.&uot;

Liverman praised the State Board on its decision.

&uot;I just think it’s absolutely wonderful that the State Board of Education is not so focused on implementing the higher standards that they forget that there’s a real world out here where you have some problems with curriculum alignments,&uot; he said. &uot;I think it’s just an incredible amount of sensitivity from a state body.&uot;