State releases accreditation reports

Published 10:51 pm Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Virginia Department of Education released full school accreditation reports on Thursday, and more schools in Suffolk than last year are fully accredited.

Every school in Suffolk, except two, is fully accredited. Booker T. Washington and Mack Benn Jr. elementary schools were both accredited with conditions, while John F. Kennedy Middle School now has full accreditation after being denied last year.

“I would like to think that our families and the Suffolk community are pleased to see two additional schools accredited. However, our focus remains on continuous improvement for all schools and all students,” Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney stated in an email.

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New accreditation standards were adopted in November 2017, and the new standards place the focus on school quality indicators rather than just Standards of Learning results and graduation rates.

High schools in Virginia are rated on nine different indicators, and middle and elementary schools are rated on six indicators. Most of the indicators are the same for both categories, but the high schools also get evaluated on the dropout rate, absenteeism and college, career and civic readiness.

The indicators get rated individually with either a Level 1, 2 or 3, and the number of the different levels present within a school determines its accreditation rating.

Level 1 means the school meets or exceeds standards or has made sufficient improvement in that indicator, and Level 2 means the school is near the standard or has made sufficient improvement.

Schools can be fully accredited by having both Level 1 and Level 2 on all of their indicators as long as they continue to implement multi-year improvement plans to make progress in Level 2 indicators.

Level 3 indicates that a school is below the state standard within an indicator, and having a Level 3 in one or more indicator categories can lead to a school being accredited with conditions.

If Level 3 indicators do not improve, a school can have its accreditation with the VDOE denied.

Booker T. Washington and Mack Benn Jr. elementary schools both were denied accreditation last year, and they are both currently evaluated at a Level 3 for the mathematics achievement gap. King’s Fork High School also was rated a Level 3 in the same indicator category as well as for high school dropout rate. Lakeland High School received a Level 3 rating in the graduation and completion indicator.

King’s Fork and Lakeland maintain full accreditation, despite the current standards. VDOE granted full accreditation to 140 schools across the state due to waivers or one-year transitional ratings due to previous high performance or meeting the previous standard for accreditation.

Suffolk Public Schools is working to address the issues within both high schools to maintain full accreditation status.

“To improve the graduation and completion rate and decrease the dropout rate, we will continue to have our graduation coaches, teachers and staff closely examine data to identify students at risk of dropping out,” Whitney said. “Graduation coaches will meet with those students and their guardians directly to determine their specific academic and/or social needs. Intervention processes and services will continue, as well as attempts to connect students with wrap-around services to assist in being successful.”

Under the new accreditation standard, only one school among the 1,821 in the state had its accreditation withheld. According to the VDOE, 92 percent of Virginia public schools received full accreditation, and only 7 percent were accredited with conditions.