Despite indications that JEB Stuart High School would be deemed fully accredited by the Virginia Education Department this year, it turns out the school missed by just one-half of a percentage point.
Stuart is now considered to be “partially accredited: approaching benchmark-graduation and completion index.” The slip happened because too many students earned a certificate of completion rather than a standard diploma because they didn’t pass all required state tests.
Stuart Principal Penny Gros explained what happened in a memo to parents: State accreditation at the high school level requires schools to meet benchmarks in the four core areas reading/writing, math, science, and social studies). Seventy percent of students who take a test in science, social studies or math must pass that test. For reading and writing, the benchmark is 75 percent.
“We knew that we had made all of those benchmarks following the spring 2015 administration of the Standards of Learning (SOLs) tests and were celebrating getting over the 70 percent pass rate in mathematics which had proven difficult in recent years,” Gros said.
High schools, however also have to be attain a fifth benchmark to be fully accredited; they have to earn a “graduation and completion index” of 85. The GCI calculation awards full credit for students who earn a Virginia Board of Education-recognized diploma and partial credit for other outcomes.
“In early October, we received unofficial news that we had met the benchmark of 85 and were projected to be fully accredited for this year,” Gros said. “I shared this great news last week at our monthly PTSA meeting and at a recent faculty meeting.”
“Unfortunately,” she continued, “I learned late last week that we have missed the mark by one-half of a percentage point. This occurred as a result of a small number of students who received a ‘certificate of completion’ in June instead of a standard diploma.”
Certificates were awarded to students who had passed all of the necessary coursework to graduate but were missing one or more SOL tests. “When the recalculation of accreditation status was done by the state last week, the small number of students who passed required courses but did not pass the associated SOL tests and did not re-enroll this fall negatively impacted our GCI number,” Gros said.
Stuart administrators are working with FCPS staff to ensure that Stuart receives credit for all students who return to school to take SOL tests, as well as for students who return to school to take courses.
“If appropriate, we will appeal our accreditation status with the Virginia Department of Education,” Gros said. Evans is working with Del. Kaye Kory and state Sen. Dick Saslaw to pursue an appeal.
“This was indeed very disappointing news, especially missing the GCI by such a small amount,” Evans said. “The school has made significant improvement and met every other benchmark. Until shortly before the official announcement, FCPS believed Stuart had made the graduation rate, and I’m still trying to find out where the disconnect was with the calculations.”
“While this is certainly disappointing news,” Evans said, “it doesn’t take away from the great work being done every day at Stuart, the dedication of the Stuart faculty and the wonderful education Stuart’s highly diverse student population receives.”
Stuart is among 15 Fairfax County school not fully accredited this year, including two others in Mason District.
Poe Middle School in Annandale was deemed “partially accredited: improving school-pass rate” for not scoring high enough in English on the SOL test. That designation is given to schools that are within 2 points of the adjusted SOL pass rates required for full accreditation in one or more subject areas. Forestdale Elementary School in Springfield and Whitman Middle School in Alexandria were also given that designation.
Annandale Terrace is one of nine FCPS elementary schools deemed “partially accredited: warned school pass rate.” That means the school is “not within a narrow margin of, nor making acceptable progress toward, achieving the adjusted SOL pass rates required for full accreditation.” Annandale Terrace fell short in science.
Two FCPS schools were identified as “partially accredited: approaching benchmark pass rate.”