FHS boasts full accreditation; J.P. King makes gains

Published 2:28 pm Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The sign is already on the wall. -- Cain Madden | Tidewater News

The sign is already on the wall. — Cain Madden | Tidewater News

FRANKLIN—The sign’s already on the wall.

“Congratulations! Franklin High School: Fully Accredited.”

That’s because Franklin High School jumped into accreditation range based on its SOL scores when the Virginia Department of Education released each test score for each school on Wednesday.

“It was certainly a challenge to get to where we are,” FHS Principal Travis Felts said. “It feels great, but we are still not satisfied because we still have a lot of growth we need to do.”

Felts said he knows it is not 100 percent official yet, but he feels comfortable enough in the fact that Franklin High School has no more data to send to VDOE before the Sept. 3 deadline to get summer school figures in.

Over at J.P. King Middle School, significant gains were made in many of the categories of the SOL tests. Meanwhile, S.P. Morton Elementary School dropped in 8 out of 10 tested categories.

Official VDOE state accreditation ratings will be issued next month, along with updated school and division report cards. Overall pass rates for this article were compiled based on the information provided by the state.

System-wide, including all three schools together, the mathematics pass rate is 52 percent; English reading is 53 percent; English writing is 57 percent; science is 61 percent; and history and social sciences are 77 percent.

New Superintendent Willie Bell Jr. said that everyone in the system is ready to move forward and better these results in the upcoming academic year.

“We have discussed, analyzed and developed a game plan to address areas of deficiency,” he said. “We are in V-formation and ready to perform at higher heights to ensure the best education possible for students.

“With the committed support of the entire community of Franklin, there is no doubt that our students, school system and city will be a beacon of excellence for others to follow.”

Franklin High School

At the beginning of the year, Felts said that FHS was going to be fully accredited again.

“I believe in our students, and I believe in our teachers, and I believe in our community,” he said. “We have been knocking on the door for a few years, and I felt like this was the year where we were going to kick the door down.”

In the third year of the higher rigor mathematics tests, Franklin High School’s overall pass rate increased to 73 percent. That’s 3 points above the benchmark for accreditation, and a 13-point jump from 2012-13. In 2012-13, the school’s math rate of 60 percent had them accredited with warning in math.

In math, there’s still some room for improvement, however. In Algebra I, which gained 12 percentile points, but was below the state average at 62 percent. Geometry also had a significant climb, moving up by 29 points to 67 percent. The state average, however, is an 82 percent pass rate. Franklin’s Algebra II students were above the state average of 82 percent with an 86 percent pass rate.

In English, which includes reading and writing, the preliminary number is at 73 percent, which would be below the state full accreditation benchmark of 75 percent pass rate. However, Franklin makes it on a three-year average with an 80 percent pass rate.

Felts said that in English they have revised their curriculum to better align it with the SOLs. One way is by increasing rigor in the English 9 and 10 classes, so that they are as tough as the SOL tested English 11 class.

“We will continue to monitor planning, instruction and assessments in English and all of our subjects to ensure that our expectations for student achievement are being met,” Felts said. “Also, ongoing training and professional development in strategies for successful integration of reading and writing standards should assist with English achievement.”

Gains were made in science. VDOE increased the rigor of the test two years ago, and students across the state improved. In Franklin, biology students climbed 17 percentile points and had a pass rate of 89 percent; chemistry was 92 percent; and earth science was 75 percent. Besides earth science, FHS is above the state average.

History also saw big gains. Virginia and U.S. History moved 19 percentile points, from a 63 percent to an 82 percent pass rate. World History I’s pass rate moved from 78 percent to 87 percent. Students in World History II achieved a pass rate of 84 percent, up 12 points from 2012-13. World History I students are above the state average.

Felts said they are happy, but not satisfied.

“Now it is time to do it all again,” he said. “Yeah, we are fully accredited, but it is not like we are sitting here with our feet propped up. We won’t be totally satisfied until, well, we will probably never be totally satisfied because there is always room to grow.

“I don’t want our staff to feel like we have arrived and we can relax. Because when that happens, we’ll have to take the sign back down again and regroup.”

J.P. King

J.P. King Middle School is coming off of a year where it was accredited with warning in math, English, history and met the science accreditation benchmark science based on its three year average. It has been a Title I Priority School for 2 years.

But this year, gains were made in English, math and social studies and history, though they dropped in science preliminarily, with one data point not submitted by VDOE yet.

Principal Lisa Francis was pleased to see improvement, but is not ready to stop there.

“During the 2013-2014 school year, JPK increased the rigor of instruction with a more laser-like focus to match the state expectations at all grade levels,” she said. “This year, we will further enhance the level of instruction, by utilizing our Lead Turnaround Partner, VDOE support and Central Office Personnel.

“The staff, students and JPK family are committed to making sure that the 2014-2015 school year is a monumental year defined by achievement of excellence.”

In math, grade 6 students climbed from a 50 percent pass rate to a 61 percent rate. Grade 7 students made a small gain, from a pass rate of 34 percent to 35 percent. Grade 8 students climbed from a 44 percent to a 58 percent pass rate.

Reading and writing scores climbed as well. The overall pass rate for English is unofficially 64 percent compared to 54 percent last year. Grade 6 students climbed from a pass rate of 53 percent to 70 percent. Grade 7 students climbed from a pass rate of 45 percent to 67 percent. Grade 8 reading students climbed 2 percentile points to a pass rate of 60 percent. Grade 8 writing students climbed 7 percentile points to a 59 percent pass rate.

Grade 8 science took a drop at J.P. King, from 61 percent to 55 percent.

In history and social studies, civics and economics students gained from a pass rate of 63 percent to an unofficial rate of 68 percent. U.S. History I students dropped 10 percentile points to a 55 percent pass rate. And the big gain was amongst U.S. history II students, who moved 32 percentile points from a pass rate of 52 percent to an 84 percent pass rate. That’s above the state average of 81 percent.

Francis attributes increases to improvements in the culture and climate in the building.

“Students conformed to the behavioral expectations conducive to a high quality learning environment,” she said.

It wasn’t just the students involved in that culture change, though.

“Community and parental support with involvement provided an extra element toward success,” Francis said. “We are indebted to our volunteers that gave countless hours of their time to assist in additional support for students and staff.”

S.P. Morton

S.P. Morton Elementary School, which became a Title I Priority School this past year, was accredited with warnings in English and Math. It met the history figure, but only met the science figure on its three-year average. Things got worse.

New Principal Jason Chandler, who was previously the assistant principal at FHS, would not let that get him down and said his staff would be focused to turn this around.

“The main focus this year at SPM will be commitment,” he said. “Commitment to the pillars of curiosity, productivity, respect and responsibility. This commitment to these pillars will allow us as educators, students and families to come together as a unit and build the foundation for excellence.”

The math pass rate at the elementary school was 40 percent in 2012-13, and it dropped to an unofficial figure of 37 percent in 2013-14. Grade 3 students had a pass rate of 36 percent, down from 41 percent last year. Grade 4 students had an 18 percentile point increase, from a 32 percent to 50 percent pass rate. But grade 5 students dropped 19 percentile points in math. They went from a 45 percent pass rate to a 26 percent pass rate.

English also saw a drop, from an overall 46 percent pass rate to an unofficial 37 percent pass rate. In grade 3, students dropped from a 59 percent pass rate to a 46 percent pass rate. Grade 4 students dropped from a 38 percent pass rate to a 35 percent pass rate. Grade 5 reading students dropped 15 percentile points, from a 49 percent to a 34 percent pass rate. Grade 5 writing students dropped from 38 percent to a 32 percent pass rate in 2013-14.

Grade 5 science students dropped 30 percentile points, from a 60 percent to a 30 percent pass rate. Grade 3 science figures were not entered for 2013-14. The science overall claimed a 63 percent pass rate in 2012-13. The three year average was a 72 percent pass rate.

History and social studies saw an increase, from a 79 percent pass rate to an 85 percent pass rate in Virginia Studies. Grade 3 history figures were not entered for 2013-14. An 85 percent pass rate is the state average.

Chandler has developed three points for moving forward: teacher development, student learning and community outreach.

He will work to build professional capacity, enhance teacher planning and preparation and having a “laser-like” focus on instruction.

“These three facets of teacher development are not possible without a positive classroom environment,” he said. “Thus, there will be a renewed focus on rituals, routines and procedures. We want our children to learn in the most welcoming and safe environment that we can provide.”

For student learning, SPM will focus on improving attendance, fostering positive student behavior and improving classroom performance through effective and efficient assessing of students’ individual needs.

And in the third area of focus, Chandler said: “SPM needs the support of the City of Franklin to achieve school and division goals. Therefore, the third area of focus is based on the need to encourage parents to demand excellence from SPM and to reconstruct the foundation for the teacher-parent relationship.”