Schools struggle with tougher learning standards

In the coming weeks, members of Westmoreland County and Colonial Beach Public School Divisions will unveil their efforts to meet more stringent accreditation requirements set by the state and federal government.

In September, Westmoreland officials announced that Washington District Elementary and Montross Middle Schools were given full accreditation, while Washington & Lee High and Cople Elementary were accredited with a warning in mathematics.

Montross Middle School shows off their full accreditation at Fall Festival

Montross Middle School shows off their full accreditation at Fall Festival

Colonial Beach High and Elementary Schools also did not meet full state accreditation and were given warnings in math.

Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright explained the warnings in a written statement.

“Over the last five years, the accreditation bar has been raised through the introduction of more rigorous curriculum standards and challenging new assessments that test students’ problem-solving and critical-thinking skills as well as their content knowledge,” said Wright. “In addition, the benchmark pass rates required for full accreditation have increased, and high schools must meet goals for improving graduation rates.”

To gain full state accreditation schools must meet Virginia’s established pass rates for English (75 percent or higher), Mathematics (70 percent or higher), Science (70 percent or higher) or History (70 percent or higher).

A school receives a warning when their achievement levels do not meet pass rates set by the state. If a school is under warning, it undergoes an in-house academic review. It then must adopt and implement school improvement plans. The state will take further action if, after three consecutive years, the school fails to become accredited.

According to the Virginia Department of Education, of 1,828 public schools, 77 percent received accreditation while 22 percent were accredited with a warning.

“Only 257 fully accredited schools were able to meet the mathematics benchmark based on achievement over three years, compared with 750 last year. Of the 395 warned schools, 349 are warned in mathematics and 224 are warned in math alone,” VDE said.

On the federal level, Montross Middle, Colonial Beach Elementary and Colonial Beach High met all the federal targets or Annual Measurable Objectives. Cople and Washington District did not maintain pass rates as high as those last year and did not meet federal targets. Washington & Lee High has the status “did not meet all federal AMO’s” due to missing the objective for one subgroup in math. W&L will be required to implement an improvement plan.

A representative of Colonial Beach was not available to respond on the matter prior to going to press.

Westmoreland testing officials discussed the results of the federal accountability data on Oct. 14. Assistant Superintendent Cathy Rice, of instruction, federal programs and assessment, led the presentation on Monday.

“Westmoreland County Schools is taking a number of proactive steps to increase student achievement in mathematics. This includes: 1) maximizing available human and Virginia Department of Education Resources; 2) ensuring tight alignment among the planned, taught and tested math curriculum; and 3) identifying students in need of intervention early, providing the intervention, and monitoring to ensure it is working.”

Rice also noted the Standards of Learning tests have been increasingly challenging for students.

“The state was clear that the rigor of the Standards of Learning assessments would increase,” Rice said. She shared that the revised, more rigorous SOL assessments were introduced two years ago in math, history the year before and English and Science last year.

“The purpose is to make sure students are college and career ready when they leave Virginia schools,” said Rice.

In comparison to previous tests, Rice said critical thinking by students is one of the elements required rather than just selecting multiple choice answers.

Posted on Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at 11:59 pm