Virginia schools earn ‘extraordinary’ distinction

Published 8:37 am Friday, September 17, 2010

RICHMOND—The Virginia Department of Education announced Thursday that 98 percent of public schools in the state, including all 18 in Western Tidewater, are fully accredited based on Standards of Learning test results.

“Because of the extraordinary and sustained efforts of thousands of Virginia teachers, principals and other educators, almost all of our schools have achieved a goal that many thought was unrealistic when Standards of Learning testing began in 1998,” Patricia Wright, the state superintendent of public instruction, said Thursday.

Local division superintendents were also thrilled by the news.

“We are extremely proud of all our schools with the hard work and dedication of our staff and the effort from our students,” Southampton County Public Schools Superintendent Charles Turner said Thursday. “We are also very appreciative for the support from our parents, as we continue our quest to provide a quality education for the students in Southampton County Public Schools.”

Dr. Michael McPherson, superintendent for Isle of Wight County Schools, said Thursday that the results “indicate that we are narrowing the achievement gap and that we are raising the bar academically. Our students and staff should be extremely proud of their hard work and accomplishments.

“We would also like to express our appreciation to our parents and community who continue to support the division as we strive to not only meet but exceed state and federal requirements.”

Dr. Michelle Belle, superintendent for Franklin City Public Schools, was also pleased with the results but stressed that the division had to do better.

“While we are very excited, we have to get our numbers where accreditation is just routine,” Belle said Thursday. “We’ve got to get away from worrying every year whether or not we’re going to make it in certain areas. We’ve got to get past that. We’re going to work real hard to be in the high-80s and 90s this year so that we’re not stressed out in the end, wondering if we’re going to make it in certain areas. That’s our goal for this year.”

According to the VDOE, accreditation is based on scores in English, math, history and science on SOL tests given during the summer and fall of 2009 and the spring of 2010, or on overall achievement during the three most recent academic years.

In middle schools and high schools, a pass rate of at least 70 percent in all four subjects is required for full accreditation. Elementary schools need a combined pass rate of at least 75 percent in English from third grade through fifth grade for full accreditation. Elementaries also need to earn a pass rate of at least 70 percent in math, fifth grade science and fifth grade history, as well as 50 percent in third grade science and third grade history.

“All of the administrators, teachers and especially our students should be commended for maintaining accreditation for another year in all three buildings,” Belle said. “We are ecstatic that we made it for another year. The goal is to make it every year.”

There are three public schools in Franklin, six in Southampton County and nine in Isle of Wight County. There are 1,850 public schools in Virginia.