For the first time in five years, every public school in Loudoun County earned the top accreditation ranking from the Virginia Department of Education.
The division’s 89 schools scored well enough on the Standards of Learning exams in the spring to receive the state’s “fully accredited” designation. That’s an especially big deal at the handful of schools who have missed the mark in recent years.
Sugarland Run Elementary School fell short of the state’s benchmark the past two years. Last year, its students scored well in English, math and history, but low in science. Sixty-three percent of its students passed the science portion of the Standards of Learning exam, seven points below the state’s benchmark, resulting in an “accreditation with warning” designation.
The school worked with education coaches from VDOE, and also received more support from Loudoun school system’s instructional staff. They reviewed lesson plans, observed classrooms and student work, and coached the school’s teachers and principal.
Many of the school’s students have challenges, including learning English as their second language and coming from low-income homes. More than three-fourths of the students are considered economically disadvantaged and 70 percent receive additional support to learn English, according to VDOE.
The state’s report released today showed Sugarland’s pass rates were 88 in science, 89 in English, 95 in math, and 93 in history.
For a school to earn full accreditation, students must earn pass rates of at least 75 percent on English reading and writing SOL tests, and at least 70 percent on tests in math, science and history. High schools must also meet a benchmark for graduation and completion.
“We are proud of all of the hard work it took to earn full accreditation status,” said Ashley F. Ellis, Loudoun County’s assistant superintendent of instruction. “From the work of the Department of Instruction on supporting schools in creating goals related to student achievement, to the focus and dedication of the leadership and each staff member at the individual schools to carry out the action steps to achieve those goals, this designation was achieved through a collaborative team effort.”
Middleburg Community Charter School and Sterling Elementary have also fallen short of the full accreditation in recent years. The charter school failed to meet accreditation standards in 2015 when its pass rate in science was 14 points shy of the benchmark. Three years ago, four schools missed the mark: Sterling Elementary School, Sterling Middle School, Park View High School and Tuscarora High School. Those schools have since improved test scores to meet state benchmarks.
“We have much to celebrate,” Ellis said, “and will continue our efforts as we work to maintain this accreditation status.”
Statewide, 86 percent of Virginia’s 1,823 public schools earned full accreditation this school year, a five-point improvement over last year.
“I congratulate the teachers, principals, support staff and other educators in these schools for their hard work and dedication to helping students meet the commonwealth’s high expectations for learning and achievement,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples said. “As we begin the transition to a new accountability system that recognizes growth and includes important outcomes such as achievement gaps and dropout rates, a commitment to continued improvement in all schools will be vital to our success.”
In June, the state Board of Education approved revisions to the Standards of Accreditation that place increased emphasis on closing achievement gaps between student groups – and continuous improvement in all schools – while providing a more comprehensive view of school quality. A final vote on the revised standards by the board is expected in November.