All Greene County public schools are accredited by Virginia for the 2019-20 school year for the fourth year in a row.
“These results are a snapshot of student achievement in Greene County schools throughout the 2018-19 school year,” Bryan Huber, assistant superintendent, told the Greene County School Board at its regular meeting on Sept. 11. “It’s important that our mission as a school division is understood that we’re not necessarily here to help kids get better at passing the test. … That being said, we certainly understand that state accreditation is one measure by which we are judged and we’re certainly proud of our results and the work that our educators and students do in the classroom every year.”
The new assessment model includes the usual Standard of Learning (SOL) tests but now only for English, math and science. School divisions get credit for students who make significant progress, even if they do not pass an SOL test. The new model also looks at achievement gaps between ethnic and socioeconomic subgroups and includes a “student engagement” component, specifically chronic absenteeism in all grades and graduation and dropout rates for high schools.
A student is considered chronically absent if he or she misses 10% or more of the school year—for any reason— and with 180 days of school that equals 18 days.
Three levels exist within the three primary elements for accreditation. Schools that fall within levels one and two are designated as fully accredited. Schools that fall into the third level are “partially accredited.”
William Monroe High School is the only school that is fully accredited at level one status. Nathanael Greene Primary and Elementary schools, Ruckersville Elementary School and William Monroe Middle School are all fully accredited at level two.
“Years ago we were really just looking at overall student passing percentages,” Huber said.
The number of kids chronically absent at the high school improved to 21% from 28% of the population. All other schools dropped, the largest being William Monroe Middle School which went from 15% chronically absent to 21%.
Nathanael Greene improved year over year in all three tested subjects—English, math and science and dropped 1 percentage point in the amount chronically absent.
Ruckersville Elementary School is fully accredited for the fifth year in a row, showing improvement in math. The school’s chronic absenteeism rate is 7%, which Huber said is something to be celebrated.
“Ruckersville showed tremendous gains for their subgroups, particularly their black students’ subgroup,” Huber said. “English performance increased by 15% over one year. And additionally, every single gap group at Ruckersville improved in math, with the black subgroup improving 29%, economically disadvantaged by 10%, and Spanish students by 10%. So there’s a large focus on at Ruckersville in terms of equity.
“Students with disabilities improved by 13% in English and 9% for math at the middle school,” he said.
At the high school, 92% passed English, up from 84% for the 2017-18 school year. Additionally, only 3% of the school’s population dropped out and 94% graduated.
“As I started to prepare the presentation for this evening, I went back to last year’s presentation to take a look at what did we identify as focus areas? What did we communicate to you as a board and to the community that we were going to focus on based upon our performance from the years past?” Huber said. “We identified a couple areas of focus from last year; we wanted to take a look at achievement in math and English for those four subgroups.”
Huber said division wide the black student subgroup improved 9% for English and 6% for math. Economically disadvantaged students improved 1% in English and 5% in math. Students with disabilities made an 18% increase in the number passing in English and 9% in math, across the school division The English as a Second Language subgroup improved 3% in English and 8% gain in math.
“We’re certainly very proud of the growth and display of student achievement that these results show,” Huber said. “However, we never want anyone to forget that our mission is not to help kids get higher and higher grades on standardized tests. That’s not what we’re here to do. We certainly believe a byproduct of the real work that occurs every day, such as the work that you see here in these pictures is higher. We believe that when we do those things, and we engage kids in learning naturally, they’ll do better and will improve.”
Ruckersville District School Board member Sharon Mack asked Huber why science test scores were lower in each school except Nathanael Greene.
“It’s hard to kind of put your finger on what that’s a byproduct of. I think science in nature is very hands on and a very project-based discipline to begin with, but then we assess it in a very non realistic way,” Huber said.