Three in 10 Virginia schools failed to meet state accreditation standards this year as students continue to struggle with more rigorous exams introduced three years ago.
The Virginia Department of Education said Tuesday that 555 of the state’s 1,827 schools did not meet state benchmarks this past spring on the annual statewide Standards of Learning tests.Thirty percent of all schools in the state were rated “accredited with warning,” up from 22 percent the year before. Five years ago, just 15 Virginia schools received the downgraded status.
Schools administrators from around the state saw the accreditation troubles coming after exam scores stagnated this year and half of all school districts saw reading scores drop.
Ten Virginia public schools were denied accreditation — the most ever — up from six last year, said Charles Pyle, a spokesman for the Education Department.
The significant rise in schools failing to receive full accreditation follows a 2011 redesign of the state exams that students take at the end of the academic year. The revised tests called on students to use critical-thinking skills to solve more challenging problems on reading, writing, history, math and science.
“The SOL tests students began taking 16 years ago established a uniform floor across the state. Now the floor is being raised so all students — regardless of where they live, who they are, or their family’s income — will have a foundation for success in an increasingly competitive economy,” Christian N. Braunlich, president of the state Board of Education, said in a statement. “These new tests represent higher expectations for our students and schools, and meeting them will be a multiyear process.”
Virginia is one of a few states that did not adopt national Common Core State Standards, which some educators argue are more rigorous than standards some states had previously. But Virginia has increased the difficulty of its tests and has seen scores drop.
For schools to receive full accreditation in Virginia, more than 75 percent of students must pass the state’s reading and writing tests, and 70 percent must pass the math, history and science exams.
In Fairfax County, more than 20 schools, about 10 percent of all the schools in the high-performing district, were accredited with warning. In 2012, all county schools received full accreditation last; last year, 12 county schools received accreditation with warning.
Three of Fairfax’s 22 high schools received the downgraded accreditation this year: Mount Vernon, Stuart and West Potomac.
Three schools in Arlington County were accredited with warning, and 25 percent of Alexandria schools received the downgraded accreditation. One Alexandria elementary school, Jefferson-Houston, was denied accreditation for the third year in a row.
Prince William County had 12 schools accredited with warning, and four Loudoun County schools did not receive full accreditation.
Many of the schools that lost full accreditation did poorly on the new science exams. In Fairfax, nine of 21 schools accredited with warning did not meet those benchmarks.
School systems in Northern Virginia generally fared better than districts elsewhere in the state. Three of the schools denied accreditation are in Norfolk, a troubled district that saw the majority of its schools fail to meet state benchmarks for full accreditation. In all, just 13 of Norfolk’s 44 schools received full accreditation.
“Virginia’s students are among the highest-performing in the nation on the national reading, mathematics and science tests,” Secretary of Education Anne Holton said in a statement. “I am confident that the teachers, principals, superintendents and other educators who have brought our schools and students this far are up to this new challenge and, moving forward, we will see more and more schools regain full accreditation.”