New rules give lift to schools
PETERSBURG — The “Innovate 2022” plan that Petersburg Public Schools implemented last year aims at getting all the schools back up to state standards by 2022. The district took a crucial step toward that goal on Thursday, as the Virginia Department of Education announced that two of Petersburg’s schools, Walnut Hill Elementary and Cool Springs Elementary, are listed as accredited under their new guidelines. The remaining schools are listed as accredited with conditions.
“This is the first year in recent memory that all schools in Petersburg are accredited,” said Superintendent Marcus Newsome in a video statement.
Under the old guidelines, none of the schools were fully accredited.
Though Petersburg schools overall struggled on last year’s Standards of Learning (SOL) tests, the new standards used by the VDOE move away from relying heavily on SOL scores to determine accreditation.
The revised accreditation standards are “designed to promote continuous achievement in all schools, close achievement gaps and expand accountability beyond overall performance on Standards of Learning tests,” according to the VDOE.
The new standards use “quality indicators” grouped in three categories: academic achievement, achievement gaps, and student engagement and outcomes. Performance on each indicator is rated at one of the following levels:
Level One: Meets or exceeds state standard.
Level Two: Near state standard.
Level Three: Below state standard.
Accredited schools (Walnut Hill and Cool Springs) have all school quality indicators at either
level one or level two.
Accredited with conditions schools (Lakemont Elementary, Pleasants Lane Elementary, Vernon Johns Middle School and Petersburg High School) have one or more school quality indicators at level three.
When speaking last month about the districts' SOL scores, Newsome said that the new accreditation standards focus more on “individual subgroups,” putting more of an emphasis on the achievement gaps between different groups of students.
The VDOE is hoping that the new standards make it easier to identify where resources are most needed to bring all schools up to full accreditation. “Every student in the commonwealth deserves a high-quality educational experience,” said Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane. “And we hope that by shining a light on these gaps, our schools will continue to develop innovative strategies that result in equitable outcomes for our children.”
Petersburg Schools' “Innovate 2022” strategic plan is just entering its second year of implementation. The plan lays out a road map of initiatives to improve the system, which has languished near the bottom of the commonwealth for over a decade.
“We have implemented a five-year strategic plan called ‘Innovate 2022,’ and we believe we are on the right course to getting all the schools fully accredited,” said Newsome in the video statement. “And we look forward to even bigger and better things coming from our schools as we move forward.”
John Adam may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 804-722-5172.