Suffolk schools fully accredited

Published 10:25 pm Wednesday, September 16, 2009

All of Suffolk’s public elementary, middle and high schools have been fully accredited under the state’s Standard of Learning guidelines, according to the Virginia Department of Education.

Suffolk is one of 117 school divisions in the commonwealth to have all of its schools earn full accreditation. That number represents 98 percent of all of the state’s 1,867 public schools.

“All but a handful of schools are now meeting or exceeding state standards, even though the rigor of the commonwealth’s SOL accountability system has increased,” Virginia Board of Education President Mark E. Emblidge said. “The board will maintain its focus on raising achievement in schools that have yet to earn and maintain full accreditation.”

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Accreditation is awarded to schools that meet or exceed state objectives on Standards of Learning tests and other statewide assessments in the four core academic areas — English, math, history and science.

The accreditation results are a separate matter from the No Child Left Behind results that were announced last month. Under that federal legislation, schools throughout the nation are tasked with meeting “adequate yearly progress” toward proficiency standards in reading and mathematics, as well as participation in testing and attendance and graduation rates.

Twelve of Suffolk’s public schools failed to meet their AYP numbers this year. Three of those schools — Elephant’s Fork, Mack Benn Jr. and Mount Zion elementary schools — were required to send letters to parents giving them the option of sending their children to a different Suffolk school this year.

Elephant’s Fork is the only Suffolk school receiving federal Title I money that has failed to meet its AYP goals for three years in a row.

The accreditation ratings announced on Wednesday are based on SOL tests taken during the summer and fall of 2008 and the spring of 2009. Results of tests in each subject are combined to produce overall school passing percentages in the four key subject areas.

At least 70 percent of students in middle and high schools must pass the SOL tests in order for their schools to be accredited. In elementary schools, 75 percent of students must pass their English SOLs; 70 percent must pass math, and grade-five history and science; and 50 percent must pass grade-three science and history tests.

Although the school met its accreditation standards, Elephant’s Fork elementary tested at the bottom of its class in Suffolk on every benchmark except third-grade science.

Ranking highest among the city’s elementary schools was Northern Shores Elementary, which led in the percentage of students passing English, history and third-grade science.

At the middle-school level, John Yeates Middle School leads the district in English, math and science scores, with Forest Glen Middle School leading in the number of students passing the history tests.

Leading the city’s public high schools with the highest percentage of students passing their SOLs was Nansemond River High School, whose students led others in every subject tested.

“We are very pleased and proud, but realize there is still work to be done,” Deputy Superintendent Deran R. Whitney said of the SOL test results. “Our primary focus remains … increasing student achievement and closing academic achievement gaps.”