Raising expectations

Published 9:17 pm Monday, October 3, 2011

The point has been made on this page before that state accreditation really should be the lowest of a school’s or a school system’s goals. State accreditation implies that a school or a system meets the very minimum standards of excellence. Top-achieving schools aim far higher than mere accreditation and achieve correspondingly well.

It has never sat well with us that so many of Suffolk’s schools take such pride in simple accreditation. Visitors to many of the city’s public schools are struck by the appearance of outdoor banners prominently hung where passing drivers and arriving parents and students are at once confronted with the proud news of accreditation.

Such misplaced pride strikes us as similar to a NASCAR driver who keeps his driver’s license on the mantel, where everyone can see it and where other drivers might keep their trophies. It’s nice that the driver is licensed, but one would expect he’d reserve his prideful display for the real win.

Email newsletter signup

This year, two of Suffolk’s schools — Lakeland and King’s Fork high schools — find themselves unable even to crow about the success of accreditation. This year, the commonwealth of Virginia was able to grant only provisional accreditation to the schools, because they failed to meet a new graduation benchmark, which admittedly tripped up 28 other high schools around the state, as well.

If Suffolk Public Schools’ administration holds true to its history of celebrating the achievement of that which should be considered a minimum standard, then the banners at those schools will have to be enlarged enough to add the moderating term, “provisional.”

If, however, the system wants to see surprising results from those and other schools in Suffolk, its leaders will begin to set goals that at first seem unrealistically high and then demand that they be met — all in the full knowledge that human beings do their best when they’re most challenged.

Setting state accreditation as an achievement worthy of public praise has resulted finally in the failure of two thirds of Suffolk’s high schools to reach even that basic goal. School administrators must raise the bar of expectation higher in order to show they seek even greater achievements from their students.