More Peninsula-area schools earn accreditation this year

Hampton City Schools had more schools accredited this year than it’s had in the last three years and all five of Newport News high schools were fully accredited for the first time since the 2010-2011 school year, according to accreditation data released Wednesday from the Virginia Department of Education.

Overall, more schools in the region were accredited this year, but a few previously accredited schools in Newport News did not make the cut. The district’s wins include its high schools’ status and Willis A. Jenkins Elementary School, where staff and students worked their way to accreditation this year.

Schools in Williamsburg and in York, James City and Isle of Wight counties were all accredited, as they were in the previous three years.

This year, 86 percent, or 1,573, of Virginia’s 1,823 public schools schools earned full accreditation, up from 81 percent last year, the state education department reported.

To be fully accredited, a school needs to meet or exceed a 75 percent pass rate on English Standards of Learning tests, and 70 percent each on mathematics, history and science SOLs. High schools also must meet a graduation index of 85 or higher.

Scores taken in the spring determine the accreditation status for the following school year.

Hampton

Nineteen of 28 Hampton City Schools were accredited this year, including all the division's high schools,* reflecting the highest number of schools accredited in the last five years, school officials said.

Three schools — Aberdeen Elementary, Alfred S. Forrest Elementary and Jane H. Bryan Elementary — earned accreditation after reconstitution, or state-approved changes in school leadership, governance, faculty and instruction last year.

“I am pleased with the exceptional student achievement progress,” Superintendent Jeffery Smith said in a news release. “This is representative of a strong working relationship with our families and a committed and dedicated HCS staff.

One school, John Tyler Elementary, was denied accreditation. Another school, Phillips Elementary, was partially accredited.

The accreditation of eight schools is “to be determined,” which means the school system will appeal the status they’ve received, school officials said.

Last year, the school division put in a plan to get more schools accredited, working with schools struggling with SOL scores. It also added a literacy program.

In 2015, 12 schools, or 41 percent, earned full accreditation. Last year, 16 schools, or 55 percent earned full accreditation. This year, 19 schools are fully accredited, representing 66 percent of schools. All four high schools are fully accredited.

Students at 13 city schools posted gains on SOL tests in English and math. Students at 17 schools posted gains in social studies, and students at 14 schools posted gains in science.

“We will continue our efforts to ensure that our young people not only exceed state benchmarks but are also college-, career- and life-ready,” Smith said.

*This story was updated to reflect Hampton High School earning full accreditation this year. 

Newport News

Jenkins Elementary School was denied accreditation the past two years but rose to being a fully accredited school this year. All five high schools in Newport News are also accredited, state data shows.

“We are very proud of the gains that our students and staff have made on the Standards of Learning tests. Our methodical, focused efforts are yielding positive results: All of our high schools are fully accredited, and five schools improved their accreditation status this year,” said Newport News’ Superintendent Ashby Kilgore, in a news release.

“There are many achievement stories in our school district, most notably, the success at Jenkins Elementary School, which earned full accreditation after being denied for two years.”

Heritage High and T. Ryland Sanford Elementary were accredited this year after reconstitution last year.

Five of Newport News’ 37 schools were denied accreditation this year, which is down from seven denied last year.

Two of those, Huntington Middle School and Hidenwood Elementary School, were also denied accreditation last year.

At Huntington, English, history and science scores dropped. Thirty-eight percent of students passed science last school year compared with 45 percent the year before. Sixty percent of kids passed history compared with 66 percent previously, and 43 percent passed English compared with 44 percent in the 2015-2016 school year.

Hidenwood’s scores for English, math and history dropped from the 2015-2016 school year — 60 percent of kids passed English compared with 62 percent last year; 57 percent passed math compared with 58 percent; 63 percent passed history compared with 71 percent. Science scores went up two points — 72 percent passed.

Fifty-seven percent of children passed math, up two points from the previous year.

Partially accredited last year, Carver and McIntosh elementary schools and Crittendon Middle School were denied this year.

Another four schools were partially accredited, which means they’ve met some benchmarks but not all. Eight schools were marked “to be determined.”

York County

York County’s 19 schools are fully accredited. York schools have been accredited every year since at least 2001-02 except for 2013-14, according to York spokeswoman Katherine Goff.

Goff highlighted the division’s overall 90 percent pass rate for reading as an example of a division effort that’s paying off. That rate has improved by 15 percent since the 2013-2014 school year, Goff said.

The division has emphasized elementary school literacy in recent years and has implemented new strategies to help with reading. The push is linked to studies that say third-grade reading levels are tied to future school success.

At a School Board meeting Monday, school division staff said they were pleased with overall test scores and wanted to see improvement in key demographic areas, particularly for students with disabilities.

In a presentation, staff members said most of the division’s schools met all of the federal targets for all demographic groups, but eight schools missed specific targets in math or English.

The target demographics include students with disabilities, English learners, economically disadvantaged students, black students and Hispanic students.

“We are so proud of our students, teachers, administrators, and staff. This achievement, and our continued growth as a division, is the direct result of their dedication and hard work,” Superintendent Victor Shandor said in a statement. Shandor also said SOL tests were only one metric of student success, and he is looking forward to alternative testing methods from the state.

Poquoson

Poquoson’s schools are all fully accredited, with students improving in science and writing. Pass rates in math and history had a small drop.

“Overall our students continue to perform well on the state assessments and we are pleased that our division and all of our school are once again fully accredited,” Superintendent Jennifer Parish said in an email.

“Poquoson City Public Schools’ teachers and staff will continue to work to ensure that we meet the needs of all students and the high expectations of our community.”

When SOL scores came out in August, Poquoson schools fell short on 15 of 228 targets set by the federal government, including some for students with disabilities and students with economic disadvantages, Parish said.

She said the overall pass rates for those students improved in all subjects, but those were areas of improvement the schools would take on.

Middle Peninsula

All three schools in Mathews County are fully accredited, and all the schools’ SOL scores met state benchmarks.

Last year, Mathews High School’s math pass rate fell below the state’s pass rate, with 61 percent of students passing the test. This year, the school improved its pass rate by 15 percent.

Superintendent Nancy Welch said math scores have been a consistent challenge for the division, so they are always working to improve those pass rates.

She said the division has focused on extra support and individual attention for students struggling in the subject — an effort that showed in the SOL tests.

Welch said the goal is to continue the growth the schools have seen. Overall, 75 percent of students passed their math exam, a seven-point improvement from last year.

“We’re very proud of our students and faculty,” she said.

Like Mathews High School, Gloucester High School fell short on math scores in 2016. This year, though, all eight schools are fully accredited.

At Gloucester High School, 80 percent of students passed the math exam this year — a 13 percent jump from 2016. The high school had a 90 percent pass rate in English, 89 percent in history and 91 in science.

Superintendent Walter Clemons credited the division’s success to the teachers.

“They’re the ones making it happen on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

Isle of Wight

All nine schools in Isle of Wight county were fully accredited in 2017. All nine passed the year before, too.

Hardy Elementary School was identified as a focus school in 2015 but had pass rates rise from 71 to 84 percent in English and from 77 to 86 percent in math between 2015 and 2016.

This year, 79 percent of students passed in English and 79 percent passed in math — a dip from 2016 but enough to earn the school full accreditation.

The school system attributed the success to a move from traditional multiple-choice tests to a focus on communication, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and citizenship — the “Five Cs.”

“We know our students need more than the ability to do well on a multiple-choice test to be prepared for the real world. By providing them with authentic opportunities, including student expositions, we are equipping them with the skills they will need to be successful after they leave our doors,” Superintendent Jim Thornton said in a statement.

Williamsburg/James City County

For the 12th year in a row, all Williamsburg/James City County schools earned accreditation. The school system is one of only 13 of Virginia's 132 school divisions that maintained all-school accreditation for six consecutive years.

“I am very proud of our students and of the great work of our schools,” Superintendent Olwen E. Herron said in a news release. “While SOL tests are not the only measure of student performance, each year we strive to help our students achieve to their highest potential.”

Ten of the division’s 15 schools maintained or improved performance on English SOLs and nine schools achieved higher pass rates in social studies, school officials said.

“There are, however, opportunities for improvement in WJCC,” Herron said. “We are strengthening division initiatives to help English learners and students with disabilities while we continue to dedicate ourselves to closing the achievement gap.

“Achieving full accreditation is important to our schools and to our community,” Herron said.

Canty can be reached by phone at 247-4832. Follow her on Twitter @DPMCanty.

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