By Stefanie Jackson – Northampton schools received preliminary data from the Virginia Department of Education on Standards of Learning (SOL) test performance in the 2018-2019 school year, showing both success and room for improvement, but Superintendent Eddie Lawrence was encouraged by dropping rates of chronic absenteeism.
“I do think, in all honesty, that over time, this is going to go a long way to alleviating all our major problems,” he said.
Children who don’t perform at grade level in reading or math are usually chronically absent, he said. Chronic absenteeism is missing 15 or more days in one school year for any reason.
Kiptopeke Elementary School is the division’s “shining star” of attendance, cutting its chronic absenteeism rate roughly in half within three years, Lawrence said. This year, less than 10% of Kiptopeke students were chronically absent.
Lawrence credits Principal Subrina Parker with developing “good community relations” that promote regular school attendance and getting parents involved in PTA meetings and Title I nights.
Children who have good attendance in school benefit later at work, Lawrence indicated. Employers report the top reason employees are fired is chronic absenteeism, he said.
Kiptopeke is accredited with conditions. Lawrence expects its status will improve as students continue to attend school regularly.
Accreditation is based on school performance in categories including: achievement in English, math, and science by all students, achievement in English and math by gap groups (white, black, and Hispanic students, economically disadvantaged students, English learners, and students with disabilities), and chronic absenteeism.
Performance levels one, two, and three – one is best and three is worst – are color-coded green, yellow, and red.
A school must perform at level one or two in all areas to be accredited. Performance at level three in one or more areas results in the school being accredited with conditions.
Level one performance is a passing rate of 75% or higher in English or 70% or higher in math and science. Level two is a passing rate typically above 65% and level three is typically below 65%.
Kiptopeke was level three in just one category – English gap groups. About 61% of black students and 51% of students with disabilities passed the English SOL.
The SOL passing rates for all Kiptopeke students were about 69% in English, 74% in math, and 72% in science.
Occohannock Elementary School is accredited, and its chronic absenteeism rate was 12%.
The SOL passing rates for all Occohannock students were about 78% in English, 77% in math, and 62% in science. Occohannock remained at level one in science due to its three-year average passing rate of about 72%.
Northampton Middle School is accredited with conditions, and its chronic absenteeism rate was 21%.
The SOL passing rates for all NMS students were about 66% in English, 70% in math, and 67% in science.
NMS was level three in English and math gap groups. About 49% of black students, 63% of economically disadvantaged students, and 37% of students with disabilities passed the English SOL. About 54% of black students and 39% of students with disabilities passed the math SOL.
Northampton High School is accredited.
The high school’s chronic absenteeism rate is about 23%, up from 13% last year. The target is less than 25%. Lawrence called the increase “heartbreaking.” He believed kids missed school more often this year because of two tragic incidents that involved students.
The SOL passing rates for all NHS students were about 78% in English, 93% in math, and 77% in science.
All gap groups performed at level one or two in English and math except students with disabilities. The number of students with disabilities who took the math test was considered too small to count.
Nearly 62% of students with disabilities passed the math SOL, about twice as many compared to the previous year.