Completely broken

Published 6:55 pm Saturday, September 13, 2014

Suffolk public schools are going in precisely the wrong direction.

With the announcement of a preliminary report on school accreditation results on Thursday, the community learned that 10 of 19 schools across the city have missed full accreditation. Nansemond Parkway and Hillpoint elementary schools, as well as Forest Glen and John F. Kennedy middle schools, were added this year to the list of schools accredited with warning following a new set of substandard results on the commonwealth’s Standards of Learning tests.

They join Lakeland and King’s Fork high schools, King’s Fork Middle School and Booker T. Washington, Elephant’s Fork and Mack Benn Jr. elementary schools on the list of the city’s public schools that have missed full accreditation.

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Last year’s misses were the result of poor math scores, which administration officials blamed on state math tests that called for more critical thinking skills than the multiple-choice tests that had been the standard before Virginia revamped its standards of learning tests.

This year’s warnings are the result of poor results on the standardized English tests required at various instructional levels.

The results are an embarrassment to the city’s educational leaders and a detriment to Suffolk’s economic development prospects.

There is no way to sugar coat the damage this kind of announcement can do to a city’s reputation. One of the most important standard-of-living factors involved in a company’s decision to move into a community and bring jobs to its residents is the quality of education that can be found there. Few companies will be willing to make the move to a place where they cannot promise their employees will be able to find good public schools capable of producing students who are able to get into good colleges.

With more than 50 percent of the city’s public schools unable to achieve full accreditation, Suffolk’s educational system is now in crisis. What has been done for years is no longer working. The system should be declared utterly broken, and it should not take the city’s leaders another year and another set of unacceptable test results to make the declaration.