by Nathan Bass

Stuart fell a percentage point behind the necessary graduation requirement this past spring resulting in a second consecutive year without receiving full accreditation. Full accreditation is the title given to schools that pass all the necessary SOL and graduation requirements. These requirements are a minimum passing SOL rate of 75 percent in English and a 70 percent passing rate of history, science, and math. The minimum graduation passing rate is 85 percent; Stuart only graduated just over 84 percent. Stuart was the only high school in FCPS to not receive full accreditation, however the administration plans to push to reform the graduation rate this year and regain full accreditation status.  “We are looking teacher by teacher, student by student at every single piece of data,” said Principal Penny Gros.

Despite being within a percent of the accreditation mark, Stuart’s inability to reach full accreditation is still a risk. The new Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) accreditation documents read, “Under the revised accreditation regulations, a school that has not been Fully Accredited for four consecutive years will still be denied accreditation.”

“When you are accredited with a warning there is a consultant from The Virginia Department of Education that works with the school to raise achievement so they provide support in a lot of different ways.” Said Principal Gros

When a school loses its accreditation, a number of steps are implemented to reform the school. “The local school board– within 45 days of receiving notice of the status must submit to the Board of Education a proposed corrective action plan. The Board of Education will consider the proposal and develop a memorandum of understanding with the local school board,” according to the VDOE website. This “proposed corrective action plan” would then be reviewable by all faculty, parents or people associated with the school.

Only 1,414 of the 1,823 schools in Virginia were fully accredited at the end of the 2014-2015 school year. The only school, however to receive the title “partial accreditation- approaching benchmark Graduation Completion Index (GCI)” was Stuart. In order to receive this title rather than the “partial accreditation- warned school” title that was received in the 2013-2014 school year is a one-point margin. For every benchmark, SOLs and GCI, there is a margin within the necessary rate which schools can fit into and receive a separate title. These margins are within two points for SOLs and a mere one point for GCI. This new system was created to show schools that narrowly missed the minimum criteria, and are on the verge of success. Less than 10 percent of all Virginia schools receive this title.

Many factors may contribute to Stuart’s inability to meet criteria set by the state. Stuart, having the highest Limited-English Proficient (LEP) population in FCPS, faces problems retaining full accreditation. Fortunately, the VDOE has a system for supporting these students. “The scores of LEP students enrolled in Virginia public schools fewer than 11 semesters may be excluded from the accreditation rating calculations. While all LEP students are expected to participate in the state assessment program, a school-based committee determines the level of participation of each LEP student,” reads their site. This allows for a more realistic depiction of a school’s academic ability.

“I feel confident that we are going to earn full accreditation, that’s the direction we are moving,” said Gros.