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Four schools fall short of full accreditation, stumbling on math

Tuesday, Sep. 30 | By Hannah Dellinger
As in most Virginia School divisions this year, not all Fauquier County Public Schools reached full accreditation.

Four schools—Fauquier High School, James G. Brumfield Elementary, Margaret M. Pierce Elementary and Mary Walter Elementary—were accredited with warning.

“Accreditation with warning means that basically your school did not meet 70 percent pass rate for history, math or science or the 75 percent pass rate in English on the Standards of Learning tests,” said Mary Wills, supervisor of assessment and testing for Fauquier County Public Schools.

All four schools that didn’t receive full accreditation missed the testing benchmark percentages for math. Fauquier High School barely missed the test goal by 3 percent, while Brumfield fell short by 5 percent, Pierce by 6 percent, and Mary Walter by 2 percent.

“It was disappointing because last year we only had one school that did not reach full accreditation,” said Wills. “But it was also comforting to find out that other schools in state had more unaccredited schools than usual also,” she said. “We did better than the state as a whole.”

FCPS had 79 percent of schools receive full accreditation, a higher rate than the state’s over all accreditation percentage of 68.

Wills explains that every five years the state revamps core curriculum. This past year the math curriculum was made more challenging.

She also said that when the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) looks at SOL test scores, the schools usually have a three-year cushion to fall back on. If a school barely misses the percentage benchmark, VDOE looks at the scores from the previous three years. When there is a new curriculum, however, this is not possible to do.
“The rating is based on higher standards,” said Wills. “When you realize that it’s based on higher standards that’s a good thing. You like things to advance and move forward.”

Statewide, 545 schools did not make full accreditation, a large increase from last year’s total of 393.

At Monday night’s school board meeting, Superintendent Dr. David Jeck said, “It’s a real problem across the state. The school divisions that had all of their schools receive full accreditation were very small school systems.

In a recent press release, VDOE attributed the decline in fully accredited schools to the more vigorous course material.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples said in the same release, “The challenge now is to move beyond the temporary disappointment of accreditation rating and work together—school divisions shoulder to shoulder with the department—to share the best practices and implement the instructional strategies that will move our students toward college and career readiness.”

Wills said that each year, even for schools that are fully accredited, school improvement plans are put in place.

“We look to see where our strengths are and where our weaknesses are,” she explained. “We also look at data from other divisions to see what they are doing right, especially if they make a great improvement from previous years.”

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