Standardized labeling

Published 9:39 am Wednesday, September 20, 2017

If a parent or guardian makes a decision as to whether or not to send their child to a public school based solely on accreditation rankings from either the state or federal government, we think that’s wrong and is a disadvantage to both the school division, the individual school, the student and the parents.

There’s no doubt that schools that have been denied accreditation or given a varied ranking of conditional accreditation by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) probably have a great deal of work to do in shoring up their academic structure or curriculum. That inherently doesn’t make the school or the division bad.

It’s important to remember where these rankings originate. The rankings are based on the previous year’s Standards of Learning (SOL) test scores where students — for a certain very short time period after learning weeks and weeks and weeks of information — sit at a computer and attempt to recall the information in the form of a multiple-choice test.

According to the VDOE, for a school to earn full accreditation, students must achieve adjusted pass rates of at least 75 percent in English and at least 70 percent on assessments in mathematics, science and history. High schools must also meet a benchmark for graduation and completion. Accreditation ratings may also reflect an average of achievement over several years.

What that means is if Central High School happens to have a pass rate of less than 75 percent in English, it could lose its full accreditation status. It means if Victoria Elementary dips below a 70 percent pass rate in science, it could lose its full accreditation status.

These labels that the VDOE and state legislators want communities to take with their weight in gold are based on big-picture pass rates that paint large canvasses that give unfair stigmas to schools and school divisions.

We’re not saying that there shouldn’t be a set methodology or a minimum standard in place for measuring student achievement — such benchmarks are integral to understanding student success. What we are saying is that these labels aren’t the be all end all, nor the sole characteristic that a school or school division should be judged by.