FHS reaccredited, but achievement gaps identified

Published 1:22 am Saturday, October 12, 2019


Franklin High School remains accredited for the 2019-2020 school year, but would have been downgraded to “accredited with conditions” were it not for a three-year waiver it received from the Virginia Department of Education in 2017.

Per VDOE policy, schools that meet or exceed state benchmarks for three consecutive school years are granted waivers for the next three school years. As such, FHS is entitled to receive automatic re-accreditation through the end of the 2019-2020 school year, regardless of students’ overall performance on the Standards of Learning (SOL) tests during those three school years.

In 2018, the VDOE implemented revised accreditation standards, which now factor in more than just overall SOL scores. Disparities in SOL scores among student demographics — known as achievement gaps — and chronic absenteeism, are two additional factors.

Schools are then classified into one of three levels based on each factor. Level one schools are those performing at or above the state standard. Level two schools are those performing near the state standard, or improving. Level three schools are those performing below the state standard. Schools with all indicators at level one or two are classified as “accredited,” and schools with one or more indicators at level three are classified as “accredited with conditions.”

According to the VDOE’s School Quality Profiles website, schoolquality.virginia.gov, FHS was rated at level three for disparities in math SOL scores among black students; students from economically disadvantaged households; and students with disabilities. By virtue of having more than one student demographic at level three, FHS was rated at level three overall for math SOL achievement gaps.

VDOE data indicates that only 59 percent of FHS students passed the math SOL last school year, while the pass rate for white students was 79 percent. During the 2017-2018 school year, by comparison, the pass rate for black students was 64 percent, and the pass rate for white students was 86 percent.

Students with disabilities had a pass rate of 41 percent in 2018-2019, compared to a 63-percent average pass rate for all students. This, however, represents an improvement over the 2017-2018 school year, in which the pass rate for students with disabilities was 34 percent, compared to 68 percent for all students. The gap between students from economically disadvantaged households and all students was

only 1 percent, a 62-percent pass rate compared to 63 percent. Yet both pass rates remain below the state standard of 70 percent, and represent a decrease in scores since the 2017-2018 school year.

Dr. Tamara Sterling, when asked about plans for improvement at FHS, said that the school division’s director of instruction, Felicia Burkhalter, is working with FHS’s instructional specialist and the division’s math coach to align all math courses to the VDOE written, taught and tested curriculum. She added that a plan is also being developed in response to the SOL data to improve black students’ and economically disadvantaged students’ math performance by providing targeted professional development and incorporating hands-on instructional strategies.

For students in special education, the division’s director of exceptional education, Norletta Edmond, will conduct monthly professional learning communities (PLCs) that will focus on providing teachers with differentiated instructional strategies to support students with learning disabilities, Sterling said.

As for J.P. King Jr. Middle School, that school also remains accredited for the 2019-2020 school year, and unlike FHS, achieved level one ratings in all school quality factors, with only a slight disparity in English SOL scores identified among students with disabilities (72-percent pass rate) compared to the average for all students (81 percent).