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Five of eight Mecklenburg schools set for full accreditation

SoVaNow.com / August 23, 2017
Five out of eight Mecklenburg County schools are fully accredited going into the 2017-18 school year, according to preliminary SOL test scores released by the Virginia Department of Education last week. A sixth school missed full accreditation by only one point.

Joan Hite, director of secondary curriculum and Tracey Rogers, director of primary curriculum for the school division, shared the news during Monday night’s meeting of the Mecklenburg Count School Board.

School accreditation for 2016-2017 is based on student performance on Standards of Learning (SOL) tests and other tests given in English, mathematics, history and social science and science. The ratings also take into account a school’s academic performance over the past three years. To gain accreditation, schools must meet the pass rate benchmarks in each of the SOL subject areas tested.

The preliminary accreditation information that Hite and Rogers presented to trustees Monday does not reflect adjustments that may be made before the final ratings are issued by the state Department of Education in mid-September. Adjustments could be made for remediating students who initially fail reading or mathematics tests, or for students with limited English proficiency and those who have recently transferred into a Virginia public school. All of these factors will be taken into account in calculating the final SOL pass rates in each subject area.

Bluestone and Park View high schools, and Clarksville, La Crosse and South Hill elementary schools will all be fully accredited. Chase City Elementary School, which missed full accreditation by one point, is asking to be “reconstituted,” and the status of both Bluestone and Park View middle schools is yet to be determined.

Schools that fail to meet the requirements for full accreditation for four consecutive years can apply to the Virginia Board of Education to be reconstituted, which means they are granted additional time to meet full accreditation status. A reconstituted school reverts to accreditation-denied status if it fails to meet full accreditation requirements within the agreed-upon term — often one year — or is otherwise not making progress toward full accreditation.

Superintendent of Schools Paul Nichols said 2017 is the final year that a school’s accreditation status will be solely dependent on students’ SOL test scores. Beginning with the 2018-19 school year, full accreditation will be conditioned on each school’s overall performance, including the attendance rates of teachers and students, progress toward meeting various accountability measures such as college and career readiness, graduation and dropout rates, student participation and engagement, and SOL scores.

Nichols said that based on the strides Mecklenburg County has made in each of these areas, he believes that every school in the county will be fully accredited once these measures are in place. He also encouraged School Board members and parents to attend an upcoming meeting with representatives from the Virginia Department of Education, during which the new standards of accreditation will be discussed and public input received.

That meeting takes place Wednesday at Park View High School at 6 p.m.

Division-wide, Mecklenburg schools at the elementary level met their SOL benchmarks in every subject area except third grade reading, which was off the mark only two points. The state requires that 75 percent of students pass their SOL English reading test, but only 73 percent of county third graders did so.

Elementary schools must achieve average pass rates of 75 percent in reading and a 70 in math, history (Virginia Studies) and science to be fully accredited by the state Department of Education.

Chase City Elementary saw 74 percent of students, on average, pass the SOL tests for reading for grades 3-5. In math, the average pass rate was 79 percent; in Virginia Studies, 75 percent; and in science, 71 percent. Chase City showed significant improvement with its reading pass rate, which rose 8 points from 2015-16, when 66 percent of students passed.

In fact, Chase City Elementary showed improvement in every subject area except Virginia Studies. There was a slight drop in scores, from 79 the prior school year to 75, but still the overall score met the benchmark.

Rogers said she felt confident that Chase City would be granted reconstituted status because of the strides they made with SOL testing scores and since only one point kept them from meeting all benchmarks.

Clarksville Elementary School, which was fully accredited last year and again this year, improved its pass rate in every subject but science, where it stayed the same. The school posted an overall pass rate of 84 on the SOL reading exam compared to a 77 last year, an 87 in math compared to an 84 last year, a 94 in Virginia Studies compared to a 91 the year before. Clarksville’s pass rate on the science test was 76 percent.

Pass rates at La Crosse Elementary were 77 percent in reading, 81 in math, 89 in Virginia Studies and 71 in science. Clarksville Elementary, too, will be fully accredited in the coming school year. Their average student score in science dropped significantly from the 2015-16 school year when the school earned an 89 on their science SOL. Rogers said science scores across the division and the state appeared to have decreased and the schools were looking into the reason for this change.

Scores at South Hill Elementary, another fully accredited school, improved for the most part between the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years. Their reading pass rate from a 70 up to a 76, math from an 89 to a 90, and Virginia Studies from an 86 to an 87. In science, the score took a dip of one point, for an overall rating of 83. Their previous science score was 84.

Most likely, neither middle school will be accredited, trustees learned Monday from Joan Hite, and it is yet to be determined if the state will grant these schools reconstituted status. Bluestone Middle School was granted this status for 2015-16 but failed to make progress on its reading benchmark.

Bluestone and Park View High will both be fully accredited.

Division-wide at the secondary level (high school and middle school), county schools failed to meet pass rate benchmarks in 6th, 7th and 8th grade reading, 8th grade writing, 7th grade math, and geometry. Pass rates fell — but not below the benchmark level set by the state — in every other subject area except six grade math, which posted a score of 77, up from 72 the year before.

Bluestone and Park View Middle both missed full accreditation because of their scores in English reading. Both schools needed an overall pass rate of 75 to meet the benchmark. Bluestone’s score was 71, the same as the year before, and Park View’s score was also unchanged from last year, at 70. Both schools met their benchmark in every other subject area, math, science and history.

While both high schools earned full accreditation status, they are looking at areas for improvement. At Park View High School, teachers and administrators are looking into why their history scores dropped six points, from 85 in 2015-16 to 79 in 2016-17. At Bluestone they are concentrating on improving math scores, which earned an overall pass rate of 77 for the 2015-16 school year, but dropped to 72 for the 2016-17 school year.

Over the past three years, the school division has steadily improved its performance in SOL accountability testing. It reached a low point in 2014-15 when only one school, Bluestone High School, was fully accredited. For the 2015-16 school year, three schools were fully accredited: Park View High School, and Clarksville and La Crosse Elementary Schools. Last year, Bluestone High School joined the ranks of fully accredited schools in Mecklenburg, bringing the local number to six.

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