New rules give lift to schools

The Progress-Index Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By John Adam Mul­ti­me­dia Ed­i­tor

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 jadam@progress-in­ or 804-722-5172.

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