Prince William County school bus generic

With Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration looking to tighten accreditation standards for the state’s public schools, 98 of 107 schools in Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park met full state accreditation requirements for the 2022-23 school year.

The remaining 8.4% of the area’s public schools were accredited with conditions, a significant increase from the 2019-20 school year, when only one school in the area wasn’t fully accredited simply because it was new. Accreditation was waived for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years.

In Prince William, seven of 94 schools were accredited with conditions: Fred Lynn Middle School, George Hampton Middle, John Jenkins Elementary, Neabsco Elementary, Potomac Shores Middle, Suella Ellis Elementary, and Unity Braxton Middle. Two of nine Manassas schools – Grace Metz Middle and Osbourn High – were accredited this year with conditions, and all four Manassas Park public schools were fully accredited.

In a message to parents, Prince William Superintendent LaTanya Mcdade said the numbers enforced the need for her administration’s four-year strategic plan and unfinished learning plan that were adopted last school year.

“While accreditation assessments were waived the past two years, this report echoes the need acknowledged in our Strategic Plan for ongoing support to mitigate unfinished learning,” she wrote. “Our Unfinished Learning Plan is a two-year academic recovery plan for acceleration, recovery, and re-engagement through providing comprehensive academic, social-emotional, and mental health supports in schools. The road to recovery will be a multi-year process.”

Accreditation standards are currently composed of various metrics within three primary categories: academic achievement, achievement gaps and outcomes. Data points like graduation rates, attendance, and dropout rates are all considered for high schools.

Before 2017, the accreditation standards were entirely based on standardized test scores. Then, in a move that Youngkin has repeatedly criticized during his campaign last year and as governor, the grading for schools was changed to include the three metrics now used. Since the changes, which were passed on a bipartisan basis in the Virginia General Assembly, no schools have been denied accreditation, though many have been accredited with conditions. Then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe said the idea was to make accreditation standards more holistic.

Youngkin and VDOE officials have regularly said that the state accreditation standards have become too lax, particularly in a VDOE report earlier this year that claimed the state’s public schools were performing significantly worse than state data would indicate. That report said that VDOE, along with the state board of education, would work to “revise” accreditation standards.

“Our school accreditation system does not provide a clear, consistent, and understandable picture of how well schools are serving students,” the May report said. “Past state policy decisions to lower proficiency benchmarks for students on the state’s reading and mathematics assessments as part of the Commonwealth’s school accreditation standards have resulted in Virginia having the lowest expectations for student proficiency in the nation … As a result, our current school accreditation system does not make it clear when a school is or is not serving all students well.”

In a release detailing the 2022-23 accreditation ratings, VDOE officials again wrote that the current standards weren’t tough enough. Across the commonwealth, the percentage of fully accredited schools fell from 92% in 2019-20 to 89% this year.

Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said the post-pandemic drop in test scores should have resulted in fewer schools being fully accredited. If a school is not accredited, it must notify parents and school officials have to build an action plan with possible oversight from the state board of education.

“These ratings call into question the effectiveness of our accreditation standards in identifying schools where students are struggling to achieve grade-level proficiency,” Balow said. “The number and percentage of schools earning accreditation is almost as high as three years ago, despite significant declines in achievement on Standards of Learning tests in reading, math and science — especially among minority and economically disadvantaged students.”

Jared Foretek covers the Manassas area and regional news across Northern Virginia. Reach him at jforetek@insidenova.com

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Reporter

Jared Foretek covers Prince William County Public Schools, the city of Manassas and transportation news across Northern Virginia. Reach him at jforetek@insidenova.com

(1) comment

Fix Prince William

The nutzos are losing their footing for attacking schools.

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