Most Suffolk schools fail to meet federal standards

Published 10:45 pm Thursday, August 11, 2011

Only three Suffolk schools met federal learning goals during the 2010-2011 school year, ranking the city at the bottom of the pack in Hampton Roads in terms of school achievement.

According to reports released on Thursday, 84 percent of Suffolk schools failed to meet federal standards for adequate yearly progress toward the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act.

The schools that made AYP were Hillpoint, Northern Shores and Oakland elementary schools.

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Deputy Superintendent Jacqueline Chavis said school officials are disappointed so many of the schools didn’t meet the federal standards.

“There are some disappointments because we know how hard the schools, the teachers, the students and the parents have worked,” she said.

In order for a school to make AYP this year, 86 percent of its students must have shown proficiency on standards of learning tests for reading and 85 percent must have passed state tests in math. In addition, the same percentage of students in various subgroups, such as white, black, Hispanic, low-income and disabled, also must pass the test. If any subgroup falls short of the mark, the entire school is deemed as not making AYP.

Suffolk had the highest percentage of schools that didn’t make AYP in the five South Hampton Roads cities, including Portsmouth, Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake. Only a quarter of all the schools in Hampton Roads made AYP.

Throughout the state, about 38 percent of the schools met the requirements.

Northern Shores has made AYP every year since 2007. This is the first year since 2008 that Oakland has made AYP and the first time Hillpoint has made the grade since it opened that same year.

For the past 10 years, AYP standards have been used to grade schools’ progress toward goals of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. It is not the same standard as that used for state accreditation, which all of Suffolk’s schools made this year, according to preliminary results.

The benchmarks have increased every year, with the goal of reaching a 100-percent passing rate by 2014.

But state superintendent Patricia I. Wright said the AYP benchmarks should not be the basis for school accountability.

“In just three years, Virginia schools will have to have 100-percent pass rates in both reading and mathematics and for all student subgroups to make AYP under the current system,” she said. “While this is a laudable goal — and one we must continue to strive toward — it is not a basis for a workable accountability.”

Chavis said she thinks Wright’s opinion is widely shared across the state.

“I think that’s pretty much what others are feeling as well,” she said. “I think that’s a fair assessment across the country.”

Chavis said she thinks the overall results do not show how much some schools have improved even though they didn’t make AYP.

She said some schools have increased their passing percentages by several points from last year’s scores.

“We do know that the schools are showing growth over time,” she said. “We’ve been pleased that while we do have schools that are in improvement and are moving into improvement, even at those schools, they have made some gains.”

However, she said, there is still work to be done at the schools that need improvement.

Chavis said division officials are meeting with each school’s administration to discuss the results, what can be improved and what has worked.

She said the division will focus on reading and math this year, and new programs will be implemented to offer more help to students, including a new reading program that will add uninterrupted reading time for some schools.