The Alexandria and Arlington school systems have both reported an increase in the number of schools meeting state accreditation standards this year, based on the latest Standards of Learning test scores.
The higher numbers reflect a continuing upward trend in SOL scores across the state, even as the standards for passing get tougher.
The exams, which test students in English, history, math and science, have been given to students in grades 3, 5 and 8 and high school since 1998.
In Alexandria, the gain means that 12 of its 16 schools are fully accredited, up from 11 last year. Newly accredited are T.C. Williams High School, Minnie Howard School and the Secondary Training and Education Program (STEP), which count as one school for SOL purposes. George Washington Middle School, which last year missed full accreditation by three points, also made the list this year.
But this year, after the passing threshold on the English SOLs was raised from 70 percent to 75 percent, Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology failed to meet the more stringent pass rate by one point and is now accredited with warning. Patrick Henry Elementary School, Jefferson-Houston School for Arts and Academics and Maury Elementary School remain accredited with warning.
"I'm really pleased that we have 12 schools that are now accredited," Alexandria School Superintendent Rebecca L. Perry said, noting that in 2000, only two city schools were accredited.
Perry added that while all the district's students are performing better overall, minority students have made leaps in every category, "and some rather drastically."
The most striking example she cited was the passing rate for black and Hispanic high school students in U.S. history, which has gone from 13 and 7 percent, respectively, in 2000 to 80 and 81 percent, respectively, this year.
In Arlington, 28 of 30 county schools earned full accreditation. Hoffman-Boston Elementary School was accredited with warning in math, and Gunston Middle School was accredited with warning in history.
Arlington public schools have also reported a narrowing of the "achievement gap" between minority and white students in recent years, with 70 percent of the district's black students and 75 percent of Hispanic students passing this year, up from 37 percent and 47 percent, respectively, in 1998. White students' passing rates also went up during this period, from 82 to 96 percent.
"I was encouraged by the SOL results, but we have a long way to go," said Arlington School Superintendent Robert G. Smith, noting that the gap had narrowed by more than 40 percent this year for both Hispanic and black students. He added that Arlington has also seen increases in the numbers of black and Hispanic students enrolled in rigorous Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses.
The "accredited with warning" designation, which is applied to any school that is not fully accredited, means a school must participate in an academic review process with the state that is designed to help the school improve its performance. Until this year, schools that were close to the target pass rate could be classified as "provisionally accredited." That designation will no longer be used.