By Stefanie Jackson
For the first time in more than a decade, Northampton has more than one of its four public schools fully accredited – in fact, it has three fully accredited schools, Superintendent Eddie Lawrence announced to the school board Aug. 9.
Northampton High School, Kiptopeke Elementary School, and Occohannock Elementary School have all achieved full accreditation, and Northampton Middle School is accredited with conditions.
“They can only get better,” Lawrence said of the preliminary Standards of Learning (SOL) test results that have been released by the Virginia Department of Education.
All SOL subjects require a 70 percent passing rate for full accreditation except English, which requires a 75 percent passing rate.
The SOL passing rates at the high school as of Lawrence’s Aug. 9 report are: English, 80 percent; math, 70 percent; science, 84 percent; and history, 71 percent.
Lawrence attributed the lower passing rate in math to the fact that the middle and high school were short one shared math teacher this past school year.
The middle school’s SOL passing rates are: English, 65 percent; math, 65 percent; science, 65 percent; and history, 78 percent. The school, accredited with conditions, fares largely better when looking at average SOL passing rates over the last three years: English, 67 percent; math, 72 percent; science, 69 percent; and history, 75 percent.
Initiatives to improve performance include increasing the quantity and quality of writing across the school division and challenging students with higher level questioning.
Kiptopeke Elementary School SOL passing rates currently stand at: English, 73 percent; math, 75 percent; science, 87 percent; and history, 78 percent.
Kiptopeke student SOL performance improved across the board since the previous year except for a slight drop in English, but Kiptopeke’s three-year average English passing rate of 77 percent is sufficient for full accreditation.
Lawrence called the report that not two, but three of four Northampton schools are simultaneously fully accredited “phenomenal news … I can’t tell you how proud I am” of the teachers and staff.
Occohannock Elementary School, the only Northampton school to achieve full accreditation last year, held its ground. Its current SOL passing rates are: English, 83 percent; math, 82 percent; science, 76 percent; and history, 87 percent.
Northampton schools also made strides this past school year to improve attendance and reduce chronic absenteeism, which correlates to student academic performance. Lawrence said the final numbers exceeded his expectations.
At Northampton High School, the number of students who missed 18 or more school days, or about 10 percent or more of the instructional year, dropped by more than half, from nearly 30 percent to about 13 percent of students.
The rate of chronic absenteeism at Northampton Middle School dropped from almost 24 percent to less than 20 percent. At Kiptopeke Elementary, it fell from about 16 percent to less than 11 percent. At Occohannock Elementary, it dipped from about 17 percent to less than 11 percent.
Lawrence credited the gains in attendance to the hard work of Director of Special Programs Keren Plowden’s truancy team and lots of phone calls to parents.
Northampton High School also increased its graduation rate from about 83 percent to 91.5 percent. Another student who recently completed graduation requirements will further increase that percentage.
On Wednesday, Aug. 8, the joint committee of school board members and county supervisors forming the plan to renovate or reconstruct the aged and deteriorating Northampton High School met for the first time.
Before the committee can examine all possible options for the building, its first task is to determine the number of students to be served by the facility, the amount of square footage needed per student, and the total square footage needed.
The committee meets Wednesdays at 4 p.m. in the Northampton High School library; meetings are open to the public.