Education

Higher Standards Could Force One-Third of Virginia Schools to Lose Accreditation

August 15, 2014

Nearly one-third of Virginia’s public schools will not earn full accreditation this fall after reading and science scores dropped precipitously on state-mandated standardized tests, according to state education officials.

Officials estimate that 600 or more of the state’s approximately 1,800 schools could be “accredited with warning” next month — an exponential increase from five years ago, when 15 Virginia schools had the downgraded status.

Charles Pyle, spokesman for the state Department of Education, said as many as 250 schools will drop next month from “fully accredited” status, joining nearly 400 schools that had the lower status last year. Pyle said the state has increased the difficulty level of the annual Standards of Learnings (SOL) tests during the past three years and also has raised the bar for passing scores, leaving an increasing number of schools with substandard performance.

Pyle said the state raised the standards to help students get prepared for college and careers. Much of the country has adopted the national Common Core State Standards — which some argue are more rigorous than what some states taught their students — but Virginia is one of a few states that have not adopted them, opting instead to stick with an internal state system.

The dramatic increase in the number of schools dropping to “accredited with warning” status shows that “the increase in rigor in Virginia is real,” Pyle said. “They did it to benefit students to make it more likely that after 12 years of school a student will be ready for the first year of college without remediation or ready for employment in the job market. This is not easy. It’s not easy for students, and it’s not easy for teachers. But we believe, in the long run, this is in the best interest of students.”

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