Accomack SOLs Are Mostly Good News

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By Stefanie Jackson — Accomack schools Director of Accountability and Curriculum Sandy Drummond updated the school board on the Standards of Learning (SOL) assessments and the new standards of accreditation from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) on Aug. 21.

“We have shown great success this year and a lot of growth for our schools,” Drummond said.

VDOE gives three accreditation ratings to schools: “accredited” (formerly known as “fully accredited”), “accredited with conditions,” and “accreditation denied,” color-coded in green, yellow, and red, respectively.

She explained that some Accomack schools are “grandfathered in” regarding their accreditation, meaning if they have been accredited for the past three years, they will remain accredited for the next three years under the new system, even if their SOL performance drops below standard during that period.

The standard SOL passing rates normally required for accreditation are 75 percent in English and 70 percent in all other subjects.

“The SOL scores that were released reflect federal pass rates. They are accurate on the 2017-2018 state assessment results. The official state accreditation ratings are scheduled to be released on Sept. 27, 2018,” said Accomack County Schools Superintendent Chris Holland.

All schools are tested in reading, but only middle and high schools are tested in both reading and writing.

The SOL passing rates in Accomack County for the 2017-2018 school year, as reported by VDOE at press time are shown in the graph.

School Needs Assessments

“The building principals are not happy” with the comprehensive needs assessments they must prepare, school board member George Waldenmaier said. He criticized the “laborious fashion” in which the assessments are required to be done, following a 115-page template.

“Needs assessment is not new to any school … in Accomack County, in Virginia, or in the country. … I don’t know what document you’re talking about that’s a hundred and some pages,” Assistant Superintendent Rhonda Hall initially responded.

She said principals attended an in-service explaining how to perform the assessments, and they should be assisted by their school leadership teams.

Waldenmaier said the six principals who complained to him worry the assessments are “file fodder” to be put on a shelf and never seen again and are like “SMART goals on steroids.”

Hall later acknowledged the 115-page template Waldenmeier had referenced. “They didn’t have to read that hundred and some page document” because it was summarized and explained to them, Hall said. She encouraged any principal needing help to ask for it.

New Teacher Academy

Division Teacher Mentor Julie Evans said she “enjoyed every minute” of the six-day new teacher academy earlier this month.

The event helps welcome new teachers and prepare them for the upcoming school year.

Accomack schools hired 37 new teachers so far this year, 28 from Delmarva, three from Pennsylvania, five from other states, and one from Germany.

Of those 37 new teachers, 17 will be first-year teachers, eight teachers have one to five years of experience, and 12 have more than five years of experience, for a total of 234 years of teaching experience.

Waldenmaier said, “It’s so important to start these people off on the right foot and make them feel at home so they’ll put down some roots … this is such a unique place.”

Holland commended Evans for her efforts in soliciting donations from local merchants for the new teacher academy. “She’s selling the school system,” he said. “The central office is very proud of you. … It’s hard work,” Holland told Evans.

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