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Martinsville, Henry County schools accredited by the state

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MARTINSVILLE-For the first time in nearly a decade, all of Martinsville’s schools are fully accredited by the state. The Virginia Department of Education released accreditation reports on Thursday, marking the first time schools and districts have been judged under the new standards put in place late last year.

Under the new rules, all of Martinsville’s schools were accredited, but one fell just short of being approved without conditions. Patrick Henry Elementary was literally three tenths of a point away. The school was fully accredited with conditions, due to lower scores in English.

“We’re really excited,” Martinsville Public Schools Superintendent Zeb Talley said. “It’s just great news for us. Look at the improvement we’ve made year over year. It’s just been from hard work by the teachers and students.”

As of 2015, none of Martinsville’s schools were accredited. In fact, the last time even three of the district’s four schools were accredited was in 2012. The schools were all partially accredited in 2016 and in 2017, Talley’s first full year as superintendent, all but Martinsville Middle School were fully accredited.

“Now we can be a positive part of the conversation,” Talley said.

Under the previous system, a school’s accreditation status was based on how students perform on the Standards of Learning tests. At least 75 percent of the school’s students had to pass the English test, including both reading and writing. In math, science, history and social studies, at least 70 percent had to pass to be accredited.

New standards

Under the new standards, that changes. Schools are judged on a number of factors. In addition to test scores, the state takes into account improvement from one year to the next in English, math and science. The Virginia Department of Education also looks at a school’s dropout rate, absenteeism (how many days students miss in a year) and if a school’s students appear to be ready for college or a career after taking the classes.

Each school gets a rating for those benchmarks. Level 1 means the school meets or exceeds expectations. Level 2 means a school is near or making what the state deems as adequate progress. Level 3 means a school is struggling. If a school receives only Level 1 or Level 2 scores, then it’ll be accredited. If it receives one or more Level 3 scores, then it is accredited with conditions. Those conditions will include a development plan, detailing how the school and the larger district will work to get back on track. If the school fails to put that development plan into action, then it will be denied accreditation.

With data taken from this past spring’s test scores, disabled students at Patrick Henry fell just short, ranking in Level 3 in both English and math.

Martinsville officials said while the scores were encouraging, they want to keep improving.

“You can always look to see how we can be better,” said Martinsville Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Angilee Downing. “It comes down to everyone working together. We’re a small enough division where we know each child and we can work to help each one grow and develop.”

Looking at Henry County

Meanwhile, it was business as usual in Henry County, with schools earning accreditation. Only one school out of the 13 was accredited with conditions. That was Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School.

At Fieldale, overall, students met the benchmark with a pass rate of 75 percent for English. However, much like Patrick Henry Elementary, the scores were slightly lower in English and math for students with disabilities. And also like Patrick Henry, the difference was extremely small, with less than one point making the difference.

Fieldale and county officials said they were proud of the work students did and said they were moving forward.

“We are very encouraged by the growth in student achievement last year,” said Fieldale principal Laryssa Hairston-Penn. “As we move forward, everyone is working tirelessly to make sure each and every student reaches his or her full potential. These efforts, coupled with the collaboration between faculty, staff and administration, have created a very positive atmosphere at FC.”

While state assessments are important, Henry County officials said they relied on multiple measures to determine student success.

“Our teachers administer formative assessments throughout the school year on a regular basis. This allows the teachers to provide instruction that addresses weakness and areas that need to be enriched,” said Lisa Millner, Henry County’s Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning.

In Henry County, the district tracks student growth by what they call Measures of Academic Progress or the “MAP” system.

This is an adaptive tool that allows students to be assessed at their own level and the results help teachers to make informative instructional decisions.

Currently, HCPS students take the MAP assessment in grades K-8 in reading, math, and language. Teachers help students set goals for the year based on their initial results in the fall.

In spring of 2018, the targeted benchmark was met for all student reporting groups in reading as assessed by MAP.

Students whose native language is one other than English participate in the WIDA: Access 2.0 assessment during the school year.

English Learners receive services and resources during the school year and are assessed for growth in English language development.

During the 2017-2018 school year, 58.7 percent of the students who participated in this assessment demonstrated growth.

Though they have two years left in high school, 10th grade HCPS students participate in the Virginia Placement Test each year.

For those students during the 2017-2018 school year, 74.4 percent met the liberal arts entry requirement in reading at the college level.

“We are so proud of the work our students are doing to enhance their skills in all content areas and the dedication of our staff and families to support them as they strive to achieve their learning goals,” Acting Henry County Superintendent Mrs. Sandy Strayer said.

Brian Carlton is editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at brian.carlton@martinsvillebulletin.com

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