Losing ground

City public schools slide on accreditation; only 13 of city’s 44 schools fully accredited

9/15/2016, 11:29 p.m.
Report cards are in for Richmond Public Schools. And many of the city’s schools didn’t make the grade, according to ...

By Lauren Northington

Report cards are in for Richmond Public Schools.

And many of the city’s schools didn’t make the grade, according to the Virginia Board of Education.

Only 13 of the city’s 44 schools received full accreditation, down four from the 17 schools that met state standards last year.

Seven schools — Elizabeth D. Redd and Swansboro elementary, Martin Luther King Jr. Middle, Armstrong High, Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts, Amelia Street Special Education Center and Richmond Alternative School — were denied accreditation.

Sixteen Richmond schools are at risk of being denied accreditation by the Board of Education. The board will determine accreditation status for those schools later this year.

The remaining eight Richmond schools received partial accreditation warnings that help the state identify how far a school is from achieving passing Standards of Learning scores and meeting graduation requirements.

“We’re nowhere near where we want and expect to be,” Jeff Bourne, chairman of the Richmond School Board, told the Free Press on Wednesday following the release of the state’s annual report on school accreditation.

“But we are in the midst of fixing and rebuilding a number of things that have been and were ignored for years.”

For a school to be fully accredited, at least 70 percent of its students must pass state Standards of Learning tests in mathematics, science and history, and 75 percent of the students must pass the English SOL tests.

In addition to the SOL pass rates, high schools also must maintain at least an 85 percent graduation rate to be fully accredited.

The ratings take into account efforts to help students who have failed the SOLs in the past.

This is the first time Redd and Swansboro elementary schools have failed accreditation. The other five are repeat offenders. This is at least the second year all five have failed.

However, accreditation ratings do account for students who retake an SOL test and pass after initially failing.

Four city schools are on warning that they would be denied accreditation next year if they fail to raise student SOL pass rates during the current academic year. They are Albert H. Hill and Elkhardt Thompson middle schools, George Wythe High and John B. Cary Elementary.

Huguenot High School received partial accreditation because its high school graduation rate is at 82 percent, which is 3 percentage points below the state standard for accreditation. It is also a drop of 5 percentage points from Huguenot’s graduation rate last year.

With seven schools denied accreditation, Richmond had 24 percent of the Virginia schools that failed accreditation. Across the state, just 29 schools in 11 of the state’s 132 school districts were denied accreditation for 2016-2017.

Overall, 81 percent of Virginia’s public schools were fully accredited. And 53 school districts had all of their schools accredited. That includes Hanover, Powhatan and Prince George counties and Colonial Heights.

In Henrico County, only one school — L. Douglas Wilder Middle — was denied accreditation. This is the third year the school has not been accredited. Forty-eight schools were fully accredited, while 18 received partial accreditation or are awaiting determinations from the state.