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 ...

In Chesterfield County, no schools were denied accreditation, and five received partial accreditation or are awaiting accreditation results. Fifty-six schools were fully accredited.

Charles Pyle, spokesman for the state Board of Education, said schools that are denied accreditation must work with the state to come up with an approved corrective action plan.

“A memorandum of understanding between the Board of Education, the Richmond School Board and the superintendent is created, or amended,” he said. “This process involves providing additional tools, updating the [school] division’s academic plan and having the Richmond School Board provide a presentation to the state on plans for improvement.”

Last year’s memorandum of understanding for Martin Luther King Jr. Middle and Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts requires the schools to submit reports three times a year to the state Office of School Improvement with data on student and teacher attendance, student discipline and teacher observations.

Both memorandums of understanding would need to be amended as both schools were denied accreditation again.

Richmond schools Superintendent Dana T. Bedden said the repeated failures and warnings from the state Board of Education for certain city schools are indicative of “basic needs and social issues from the community.”

“Many of our schools were already on this trajectory, and correcting this is a process, not a single action,” Dr. Bedden said in a statement. “Addressing the years of challenges will take more than two school years. Some challenges in school performance are indicative of the challenges faced by the community at large.”

Dr. Bedden is completing his third year as Richmond’s superintendent. He started in January 2014.

He said his administration has been working to improve student access to food after school and on the weekends and on training teachers to better understand the trauma many of the city’s students cope with.

He also is implementing, in cooperation with the state Department of Education, a new approach to school improvement that he calls the School Progress Plan.

“Each school, regardless of accreditation, will have a SPP,” said Mr. Bourne. “Those plans will be developed and communicated so people can see them and hold the school system accountable,” he said.

Both Mr. Pyle and Mr. Bourne had their own solutions to improving schools.

“One key action that has to take place in developing a corrective action plan specific to the schools’ needs is a conversation with the community,” Mr. Pyle told the Free Press.

“We have to do two things,” Mr. Bourne added. “We have to first make sure we have quality teachers in each school, and secondly, our city has to make sure our school have the resources that will show significant progress for our students.”

Mr. Bourne remains hopeful about the future of education for the city’s children. The school system “can’t change what’s been done,” he said.

Instead, he said, RPS needs to “learn from it, move forward and try and make progress.”