Suffolk schools fully accredited

Published 9:35 pm Monday, September 30, 2019

Every school in the Suffolk Public Schools division is fully accredited, official data released Monday by the Virginia Department of Education confirmed.

They are among the 92 percent of Virginia’s public schools that have been accredited for the 2019-2020 school year — the second year in which schools have been evaluated through the 2017 Board of Education-approved accreditation standards that take into account more than test scores.

“Our focus in SPS is continuous progress and over the past few years we gradually increased the number of accredited schools in our division,” Interim Superintendent Dr. LaToya Harrison stated in an email on Monday. “Having ALL our schools accredited this year is an exciting milestone. We are so proud of our students and grateful for the hard work and dedication of our teachers, administrators and staff.

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“However, as we celebrate full accreditation, we also have a laser-like focus this year on areas where improvements are needed. We look forward to building on our successes and continuing our journey of progress and achievement in our schools.”

Prior to last year, accreditation was based on test scores, though high school accreditation also took into account graduation rates. The new system measures academic progress, even if pass rates on the Standards of Learning tests don’t meet the state’s minimum. It also is designed to improve efforts to reduce absenteeism.

Schools are evaluated in three categories — academic achievement, achievement gaps and student engagement and outcomes. They are rated as Level One, in which schools meet or exceed state standards or are making sufficient improvement; Level Two, in which schools are near state standards or are making sufficient improvement; and Level Three, which is below the state standard.

Academic achievement is measured in English, mathematics and science, achievement gaps are measured in English and mathematics and student engagement and outcomes factor in chronic absenteeism.

Accredited schools have all school quality indicators at either Level One or Level Two, while high performing schools with waivers from annual accreditation authorized by the General Assembly are rated as accredited. “Accredited with Conditions” means schools have one or more school quality indicators at Level Three, while “Accreditation Denied” includes schools that fail to adopt or fully implement required corrective actions to address Level Three school quality indicators.

Lakeland, King’s Fork and Nansemond River high schools were all rated as Level One in all areas of academic achievement and student engagement and outcomes. Lakeland and Nansemond River were rated as Level Two for achievement gaps in English.

Four of the city’s five middle schools were rated Level One in all categories of academic achievement. John F. Kennedy was rated at Level Two in English, but Level One for mathematics and science. All five middle schools were rated Level One for student engagement and outcomes.

In achievement gaps, King’s Fork Middle, Forest Glen and John F. Kennedy were Level Two for both English and mathematics, while Col. Fred Cherry and John Yeates were rated as Level Two for English and Level One for mathematics.

Nine of the city’s 11 elementary schools received Level One rankings in all areas of academic achievement, with Booker T. Washington and Mack Benn Jr. receiving a Level Two in English and Level One in mathematics. All elementary schools were rated as Level One in student engagement and outcomes.

Five elementary schools were rated at Level Two in achievement gaps for English and mathematics — Booker T. Washington, Florence Bowser, Kilby Shores, Mack Benn Jr. and Nansemond Parkway — while just one, Northern Shores, was rated as Level One for both subjects. Creekside, Elephant’s Fork, Oakland, Pioneer and Hillpoint were all rated as Level Two for English and Level One for mathematics.