According to the Virginia Department of Education, 3 in 10 schools have failed to meet state accreditation standards this year.
Of the 1,827 schools in the state, 555 did not meet state standards on the annual statewide Standards of Learning (SOL) tests, which labeled 30% of state schools "accredited with warning," up from the 22% given that rating last year. Five years ago, only 15 schools in the state had that label.
The VDOE reported 68% of Virginia schools receiving full accreditation, down from 77% last year.
School administrators across the state report seeing drops in exam scores this year, and 50% of all school districts saw reading exam scores drop.
Spokesman for the Education Department Charles Pyle said 10 schools in the state were denied accreditation, the most ever. Six schools were denied last year.
Accreditation is given to each school based on a three-year rolling average of exam scores. Full accreditation is given to schools that report 75% of students passing reading and writing SOL tests, and at least 70% passing other assessments in math, science and history. High schools also must score an 85 or higher on the Graduation and Completion Index.
State exams given at the end of each school year were redesigned in 2011 to include more critical-thinking problems in reading, writing, math, history 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."
Superintendent of public instruction for the state Steven Staples noted the progress already beginning to improve these statistics, adding that more work is needed.
"In every school division I have visited, I have been impressed by the determination of teachers, principals, superintendents and other educators to meet the higher expectations we now have for our students and schools," Staples said in a news release. "The challenge now is to move beyond the temporary disappointment of an accreditation rating and work together – school divisions shoulder to shoulder with the department – to share best practices and implement the instructional strategies that will move our students toward college and career readiness."
Designations are held for two years unless the school becomes a priority school (this group makes up the lowest performing 5% of Title I schools) or no longer wishes to receive federal Title I funding.
Focus school designations may be continued past the initial two-year period.