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More area schools fall short of full accreditation

Twelve of the Fredericksburg region’s 123 public schools missed full accreditation in 2013–14, based on results released Friday by the Virginia Department of Education.

That may not seem like a lot, but it’s a sharp increase from last year—when just one local school, Moss–Nuckols Elementary in Louisa County, did not meet the requirements for full accreditation. Accreditation is based on pass rates for Standards of Learning tests and a graduation index.

The decline in fully accredited schools is a statewide trend because of tougher tests in reading, writing, science and math, coupled with stricter pass-rate requirements, according to a state education department press release. Of Virginia’s 1,828 public schools, 23 percent missed full accreditation—up from 7 percent last year.

Meanwhile, all schools were fully accredited in just 36 of the state’s 132 divisions, including in the city of Fredericksburg and Stafford, King George and Orange counties. Last year, every school met the mark in 87 divisions.

No local schools were denied accreditation, which happens after they’ve failed to meet testing goals for four consecutive years.

“It is important to note that the most recent results do not reflect a decline in achievement, but rather an increase in expectations and rigor,” Spotsylvania schools Superintendent Scott Baker said in a statement.

In Spotsylvania, Chancellor Middle and Spotswood Elementary were accredited with warning, a designation that requires schools to develop improvement plans.

The 10 other schools in the region to receive that label were Caroline Middle in Caroline County; Colonial Beach Elementary and Colonial Beach High; Eastern View High and Pearl Sample Elementary in Culpeper County; Jouett Elementary and Moss–Nuckols Elementary in Louisa; Margaret M. Pierce Elementary in Fauquier County; and Cople Elementary and Washington & Lee High in Westmoreland County.

The new ratings reflect test scores from the 2012–13 school year. To be fully accredited, schools must have pass rates of at least 75 percent in English and at least 70 percent in science, math and history.

“The focus of the SOL program has shifted to the ambitious but vital goal of college and career readiness for all students,” state Board of Education President David M. Foster said in a prepared statement.

“Temporary declines in SOL scores and accreditation ratings are signs that the commonwealth is expecting more, not that students are learning less.”

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402