SPS avoids intervention

Published 10:45 pm Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Public schools in Suffolk have been spared from a Virginia Department of Education list of schools requiring interventions over inadequate performance.

While eight Norfolk schools, in comparison, were flagged as so-called focus or priority schools, Suffolk Public Schools is pleased none of its schools are listed, Deputy Superintendent Jacqueline Chavis said in an email.

New objectives and related accountability requirements were introduced in 2012 as part of Virginia’s waiver from the federal government’s No Child Left Behind policy.

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The waiver requires the state to list the lowest-performing five percent of Title I schools as priority schools, and the lowest 10 percent of Title I schools as focus schools based on the achievement of historically struggling subgroups.

Priority schools, 37 of which were listed Tuesday, require state-approved partners to help turn things around. Focus schools, with 73 listed for 2013, are compelled to employ school-improvement coaches approved by the commonwealth.

Putting it in perspective, about one in 17 of Virginia’s 1,828 public schools were listed this year — 110 in total.

But only five of 19 public schools in Suffolk were among 41 percent of schools statewide to meet all objectives, according to the department.

They were John F. Kennedy Middle School along with Booker T. Washington, Nansemond Parkway, Northern Shores and Oakland elementary schools.

Reflecting on the 14 schools that fell short, Chavis said math “remains the primary focus based on the data.”

More rigor in instruction and assessments is required, she said, adding, “Clearly, there is no one strategy or program that will serve as a cure-all, but teaching responsively to meet students’ needs along the way is where we will continue to focus.”

Subgroup performance varied school to school, Chavis said, but she cited “(Proficiency) Gap Group 3” — lower-performing Hispanics — and students with disabilities as needing attention, looking at results district-wide.

“Teachers are encouraged to differentiate instruction and intervene as soon as deficits are identified,” Chavis said. “Schools are able to analyze achievement data by subgroups. Administrators and their school data and leadership teams are instructed to use reports provided by the state and district to monitor students’ performance.”

Also, she said, students will this year sit different assessments for math and reading three times, with the aim of helping teachers identify deficits.

Furthermore, Chavis noted, all schools will address benchmarks not met in annual improvement plans.

“Schools will continue to review and analyze state and local data as the year progresses,” Chavis said. “Increasing the rigor in daily lessons as well as in teacher and system-wide assessments is important, and will continue to be areas of focus.

“Intervening early and delivering highly engaging lessons will also improve student achievement.”

Meanwhile, while the district reports that all three high schools this year met the on-time graduation rate and graduation completion index score for full accreditation, they did not meet the federal graduation indicator.

But in another piece of good news, John Yeates Middle School will not need to develop a “federal annual measurable (AMO) objective” improvement plan, which it did in 2012. The three high schools and King’s Fork Middle will have to again, however.

The AMOs upon which the results are based 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.

“John Yeates staff will share practices they believe were successful with the other schools,” Chavis said.