By Stefanie Jackson – The Virginia Board of Education’s revised accreditation system provides new insights into student performance. Understanding how test results and new types of data affect accreditation ratings can prove challenging without some background information, even for educational professionals.
A Guide for Understanding SOL Passing Rates and School Accreditation Ratings
When a school’s overall performance on the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) tests meets the benchmarks, it’s no longer a guarantee that the school will be awarded the highest rating of “accredited” by the state.
The performance of specific student groups, or “achievement gap groups,” is also tracked. They include white, black, and Hispanic students, English learners, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged students.
Additionally, only 25% or less of a school’s student population may be chronically absent, which is defined as missing 10% or more of the school year for any reason.
These are new requirements in the updated Virginia Standards of Accreditation, which took effect last year. There are three accreditation ratings that schools can receive:
“Accredited” is the new, abbreviated version of “fully accredited.”
“Accredited with conditions” replaces all versions of the “partially accredited” rating.
The rating of “accreditation denied” remains unchanged.
If a school is not named as an “accredited” school, it does not necessarily mean the school is rated “accreditation denied.” The school may be rated “accredited with conditions.”
There are also three levels of performance students can achieve, which are color-coded on Virginia Department of Education reports: Level One (green) is the highest, followed by Level Two (yellow) and Level Three (red).
For a school to be “accredited,” it must perform at Level One or Level Two in all categories or “school-quality indicators,” which include overall performance in English, math, and science, performance by specific student groups in English and math, and attendance.
A school that is “accredited with conditions” has performed at Level Three in one or more categories.
A school that is “accreditation denied” has failed to adopt or implement corrective actions addressing Level Three performance.
Examples of Level One performance are SOL passing rates of 75% in English, 70% in math, 70% in science, and a chronic absenteeism rate of 15% or less.
Examples of Level Two performance are SOL passing rates of 66% to 74% in English, 66% to 69% in math, 66% to 69% in science, and a chronic absenteeism rate of 16% to 25%.
Examples of Level Three performance are SOL passing rates of 65% or less in English, math, or science, and a chronic absenteeism rate of more than 25%.
Determining the performance level of English or math achievement gap groups is a bit more complicated. A school reaches Level One in English or math achievement gap groups if each student group performs at Level One, but an exception is made if one student group performs at Level Two.
A school reaches Level Two in English or math achievement gap groups if two or more student groups perform at Level Two, but an exception is made if one student group performs at Level Three.
A school reaches Level Three in English or math achievement gap groups if two or more student groups perform at Level Three.
Accomack and Northampton Public Schools Share Educational Challenges
Out of 15 public schools in Accomack and Northampton counties, 12 are rated as accredited. Eleven of those 12 schools were rated as accredited last year.
Metompkin Elementary School is the one that was accredited with conditions last year but is now accredited.
Overall, Metompkin students’ SOL scores met the benchmarks both years, but last year, two English achievement gap groups performed at Level Three. Only 59% of black students and 53% of students with disabilities passed the English SOL.
This year, 67% of black students passed the English SOL at Metompkin. That was enough to pull the school up to Level Two in English achievement gap groups and achieve the rating of accredited.
Two schools were rated as accredited last year but became accredited with conditions.
One is Kiptopeke Elementary School, which has found itself in the same predicament that Metompkin was in last year, with two English achievement gap groups – black students and students with disabilities – underperforming.
This year, only 61% of black students and 51% of students with disabilities passed the English SOL at Kiptopeke. Last year, black students had a three-year average passing rate of 67% in English, which was enough to hold English achievement gap groups at Level Two and result in a rating of accredited.
The other school to become accredited with conditions this year was Arcadia Middle School, also due to Level Three performance in English achievement gap groups by black students and students with disabilities.
Only 62% of black students and 48% of students with disabilities passed the English SOL at Arcadia Middle School this year. Last year, like Kiptopeke, Arcadia Middle School was spared the label of “accredited with conditions” due to black students’ three-year average passing rate in English, confirmed Sandy Drummond, Accomack schools’ director of accountability and curriculum.
One school, Northampton Middle, was accredited with conditions both in 2018 and 2019. Overall student performance on the SOLs has increased, but performance by multiple English and math achievement gap groups remains well below the benchmarks.
At Northampton Middle School, 49% of black students, 37% of students with disabilities, and 63% of economically disadvantaged students passed the English SOL. About 54% of black students, 39% of students with disabilities, and 57% of English learners passed the math SOL.
But Northampton Middle School is populated only by seventh and eighth graders, compared to other counties that also include sixth graders in middle school. Northampton Middle has less than half as many students as either Arcadia or Nandua Middle School.
Northampton schools Superintendent Eddie Lawrence is confident that when Northampton’s sixth graders are moved from the elementary schools to the middle school, the middle school’s SOL numbers will improve.
An addition must be built at Northampton’s high school and middle school complex to make room for the sixth graders.
The achievement gap group that presents the most challenges for schools in both counties is students with disabilities.
Students with disabilities typically fall far short of the benchmarks in both English and math.
There are exceptions. At Accawmacke Elementary School, 74% of students with disabilities passed the math SOL.
At Chincoteague Elementary School, 78% of students with disabilities passed the English SOL and 90% of those students passed the math SOL.
At Metompkin Elementary, 73% of students with disabilities passed the math SOL.
At Arcadia and Chincoteague high schools, 85% and 72% of students with disabilities, respectively, passed the math SOL.
No public school in either Accomack or Northampton County is “in the red” when it comes to attendance. All schools have a chronic absenteeism rate below 25%.
The chronic absenteeism rates for all Eastern Shore of Virginia public schools are in the second table below.
Administrators are hopeful that this year’s higher chronic absenteeism rates are an anomaly. For example, last year, Northampton High’s chronic absenteeism rate had dropped to 13.25%, and Northampton Middle’s was 19.92%.