Virginia Board reviews JFK Middle School’s appeal

Published 6:38 pm Tuesday, September 26, 2023

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The Virginia Board of Education heard the first review of Suffolk Public School’s appeal for full John F. Kennedy Middle School accreditation on Sept. 7. 

Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Coons recommended the appeal be denied, stating the appeal is not based on unusual circumstances and, therefore, does not merit special consideration under the intent of the Board’s regulations.

The committee members were representatives of VDOE offices and consisted of the Assistant Superintendent of Student Assessment and Accountability, the Assistant Superintendent of Policy and Communications, the Director of Accountability, Director of Student Assessment, the Director of Data Standards and Governance, the Director of Student Services, and the Director of Instructional Services.

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SPS requested the 4-year rule be waived due to the impact of COVID-19. The division says the impact prevented the school from reaching 75% or greater during 2020 and 2021.

The regulations establishing Standards for Accrediting Public Schools in Virginia (SOA) Level Three 4-year rule states a school quality indicator with a status of Level Two or Level Three through four consecutive years is designated in the fifth year as Level Three — Below Standard (noted as Level Three — 4 YRS) if the fifth year’s performance remains at Level Two or Level Three.

“We ask that the 4-year accreditation rule be waived so that this school and its community can celebrate and enjoy the fruits of their hard work and for validation of our instructional support model,” SPS said in its appeal.

JFK Middle School has been performing in the range of Level Two since 2015, and its science indicator is performing at A level Three — to 4-years based on the SOA rule.

The committee stated the request by SPS was not a rare or unusual situation that meets the intent of the appeal process, and approving the appeal would set a precedent for other appeals.

“The committee agreed that the request was not a rare or unusual situation that met the intent of the appeal process,” the committee said in its news release. “The SOA contain[s] regulations that are consistently applied to all public schools in the state so that the accreditation system evaluates schools equitably. There are many instances across the state where schools are similarly impacted by the “Level Three — 4 YRS” rating. Approving this appeal would set the precedent for many other appeals. In addition, while the division and school staff should be and are proud of the work that they are doing with students, the pandemic did impact student performance across the state, JFK’s experience is not unique.”

In response to the recommendation, SPS said the division is proud of the final student achievement from the school year 2022-2023.

“Suffolk Public Schools is extremely proud of our final student achievement data from the 2022-2023 school year. With a 95% school accreditation rate for the division, we continue to be innovative in our instructional strategies, school improvement plans, and overall development of instructional leaders,” SPS said in a news release. “The division is also proud to announce that we had the 5th highest growth rate in the state for overall pass rate on the Virginia Standards of Learning Assessments.”

The JFK appeal was one of two appeals heard by the committee. During the same meeting, Prince William County Public Schools, John D. Jenkins Elementary School in Woodbridge was also denied its appeal.

 The appeal will return for final review in October.