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Nichols: All county schools successfully accredited in 2018

SoVaNow.com / August 08, 2018
For the first time since the 2011-2012 school year, all schools in the Mecklenburg County Public Schools division are fully accredited.

Superintendent Paul Nichols shared the news with teachers Monday morning during their annual back-to-school convocation, calling it a “major success.”

These rankings mark the first time the Virginia Department of Education has employed its new standards of accreditation for measuring school performance. VDOE officials say the new accreditation system “provides a more comprehensive view of school quality and expands accountability beyond pass rates on Standards of Learning (SOL) tests and high school graduation and completion.”

The department has yet to officially publish the accreditation results, but Nichols said he was informed of Mecklenburg County’s rankings prior to publication.

Previously school accreditation ratings were exclusively based on student performance on SOL tests in English, math, history, and science and, graduation rates for high schools. Under the revised standards, schools are rated as either “Accredited” “Accredited with Conditions” or “Accreditation Denied,” based on multiple factors:

performance by students on SOL tests in English, math, and science,

progress of English language learners in English,

student success in narrowing achievement gaps in English and math,

improvements in absenteeism and dropout rates,

graduation rates and college, career, and civic readiness in schools with a graduating class.

This last criterion, which measures skills identified by employers and educators as critical for success in the workplace or college — creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaboration and citizenship — apply to students entering the ninth grade this year (fall 2018) and all classes that follow.

The Department of Education says the revised accreditation standards offer a fairer evaluation of schools serving at-risk students by measuring growth and placing increased emphasis on the practical application of learned skills and content knowledge.

Under the prior accreditation system, these schools too often were perceived as “failing” even when most students were making progress toward proficiency or could demonstrate proficiency using an alternate assessment. At the same time, schools that reported high overall performance masked underperformance of certain student groups.

Nichols said the full report from the Department of Education will not be released until October, at the earliest. For this year only, Nichols says schools will be evaluated and given an accreditation rating employing both the old and new standards.

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