The Virginia Department of Education released accreditation ratings for all schools based on the results of this past spring’s Standards of Learning tests.
This was the first year that SOL tests were given normally, post-pandemic. In 2020 tests were canceled and in 2021 students could opt out of SOL tests without it affecting the pass rates of the school. This year the normal requirements were in place for students. The results of those SOL tests are the first since the 2018-2019 school year that accurately reflect student progress.
What school divisions are finding is an improvement in scores over last year, but the effects of a year of virtual learning are still being felt.
Two Harrisonburg City Public Schools were accredited with conditions — Waterman Elementary School and Skyline Middle School.
“We believe this was tied to challenges brought on by the pandemic,” said Joy Blosser, chief academic officer for HCPS. “We are optimistic that all schools will be fully accredited next year now that we can move past the challenges specifically related to COVID.”
But there was progress, Blosser said. Students across all subgroups demonstrated substantial academic growth. But one of the highlights is the fact that Spotswood Elementary School went into the pandemic accredited with conditions but came out of the pandemic demonstrating significant increases in student academic achievement. Spotswood Elementary is now fully accredited and actually moved in the opposite direction of many other school systems across the state.
Blosser said there is not one area of study that the school division plans to focus on. Rather, they all go hand in hand and are important to the success of all areas of learning, she said.
“This information is obviously very important, but to only be responsive to this data would mean that we are just being reactionary, and we know that our students and families need us to be proactive,” Blosser said. “This proactive approach provided us with the opportunity to think about strong first instruction in early elementary so that our students are better prepared to demonstrate what they know in lots of ways, not just on a multiple choice test.”
All Rockingham County Public Schools are fully accredited this year, said Cheryl Estep, supervisor of student assessment and data analysis. This was accomplished either through the scores of the last school year or the average over the last three years, which the VDOE also accepts when making accreditation ratings.
“We’re obviously happy about that,” Estep said. “We improved in all content areas.”
Estep said RCPS students are not quite back to pre-COVID-19 scores on SOL tests, but she anticipates continued improvement.
Schools will be working with instructional supervisors in Central Office to make sure that curricula are aligned moving forward, said Larry Shifflett, assistant superintendent of innovation and learning.
Shifflett said SOL scores are an important indicator but more importantly moving forward is the work between instructional supervisors and teachers to continue improving student outcomes.
“We’re always looking at the results and what can we do to help teachers and use that information in the classrooms,” Estep added.