Much Ado About School Accreditation – Part II

Are Danville students learning? 

Last time, I provided a brief historical overview of Virginia’s Accountability and Accreditation System in an effort to help our readers understand the “hubbub” around school accreditation.  My goal ultimately, is to inform the public about what it all means.  The Virginia Board of Education revised the Standard of Accreditation in 2015 with the goal of informing the public about the progress of schools in meeting the Commonwealth’s high expectation for learning and achievement.  Measuring school progress has been largely dependent upon tests given each year, commonly referred to as Standards of Learning Tests (SOL).

The Board of Education created a series of “Partially Accredited” ratings that recognize schools that are within a board-defined “narrow margin” of full accreditation (Approaching Benchmark), or that are making what the board has determined to be acceptable progress (Improving School).  The ratings are as follows:

  • Partially Accredited: Approaching Benchmark-Pass Rate — are not Fully Accredited but that are within two points of the adjusted SOL pass rates required for full accreditation in one or more subject areas.
  • Partially Accredited: Approaching Benchmark-Graduation and Completion Index — are High schools that have attained the adjusted pass rates required for full accreditation, and that are within one point of the GCI required for full accreditation.
  • Partially Accredited: Improving School-Pass Rate — are not Fully Accredited, and do not qualify for a rating of Partially Accredited: Approaching Benchmark-Pass Rate, but that are making acceptable progress toward full accreditation
  • Partially Accredited: Improving School-Graduation and Completion Index — are High schools that have attained the adjusted pass rates required for full accreditation and that have improved their GCI by at least one point from the previous year, but that are not within a narrow margin of the GCI required for full accreditation.

In Danville, eight of our eleven schools are either Fully or Partially Accredited. Three schools have been Denied Accreditation despite having achieved the required pass rates for History/Social Science and Science for the past four years.   Fully Accredited schools are Galileo High, JM Langston High, and Forest Hills Elementary.  EA Gibson Elementary School, Park Avenue Elementary School, O. T. Bonner Middle School, Westwood Middle School, and George Washington High School are Partially Accredited.  Schools that have been Denied Accreditation are GLH Johnson Elementary, Schoolfield Elementary, and Woodberry Hills.

The accreditation ratings are an important measure of how a school is performing with regard to expectations set by the Virginia Board of Education.  School accreditation ratings reflect student achievement on SOL tests and other approved assessments in English, history/social science, mathematics and science.  Elementary and middle schools are Fully Accredited if students achieve all the following pass rates: English — 75 percent or higher; Mathematics — 70 percent or higher; Science — 70 percent or higher; and History — 70 percent or higher.  High schools are Fully Accredited if students achieve pass rates of 75 percent or higher in English and 70 percent or higher in mathematics, science and history; and, attain a point value of 85 or greater based on the Graduation and Completion Index (GCI).

While these measures are important to determining the overall progress of a school for all students, they do not reflect the learning of individual students.  Collectively, accreditation ratings reflect overall achievement of a school not an individual.  In the final analysis, determining a school’s rating on one test given once a year is not the ideal measure.   True performance is too complex to measure using one test.  In closing, if a young person moves in next door to you, are you concerned about his or her SOL score — or are you more concerned about his or her character?