Fairfax County public school students scored high marks on Virginia's Standards of Learning exams this year, with 178 schools -- or 95 percent -- meeting the state's requirements for full accreditation.
Students in the school district have shown steady improvement on the standardized tests. Last year, 91 percent of schools were judged fully accredited. In 2002, 89 percent of schools received that distinction.
Superintendent Jack D. Dale said the rise in performance is particularly notable because the state's accreditation standards for elementary schools were more stringent than last year. This year, a 75 percent pass rate was required in English for third- and fifth-graders, compared with a 70 percent rate in previous years. Also, results of the third-grade science and history tests from all schools were considered this year. Those tests were counted in previous years only if the scores boosted the school's overall performance.
"This year, possibly more than ever before, we have reason to celebrate the achievement of our schools in regard to state accreditation," Dale said in a statement. "The 95 percent rate not only continues our upward march toward our goal of 100 percent accreditation, but does so under higher standards than in previous years."
Despite Fairfax's overall high performance, six elementary schools were labeled "accredited with warning," compared with two schools last year. School officials said the change reflected the tougher accreditation standards, not a drop in student performance.
In an interview, Dale noted that the elementary schools that received a state warning are among those with the largest numbers of poor children and students who do not speak English as a native language. All six are part of Project Excel, a program that provides longer hours and beefed-up academic programs.
Raymond J. Diroll, coordinator for the school district's department of educational accountability, said some schools missed accreditation by only a few points. He said Riverside Elementary was not fully accredited because students had a 74 percent pass rate on English tests compared with the required 75 percent.
Diroll said school officials will examine the data from the six schools that received a warning to search for areas in which students may be struggling. "We'll start looking to see if the schools need help in any particular area," he said.
In addition, officials said the accreditation status had not yet been determined at three county alternative high schools.