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Making the Grade

In Virginia, the third time's a charm. While only a tiny percentage of schools passed the first and second rounds of standards-based tests required for accreditation from the state, nearly a quarter of Virginia schools met the requirements on the third try.

In announcing the 2000 test results last week, Virginia education officials said that 22 percent, or 406 of the state's 1,874 public schools, had posted acceptable passing rates on the state's rigorous Standards of Learning exams administered to students last spring. That is more than triple the 6 percent of schools that met the standard—by having 70 percent of their students pass the tests—in 1999.

Kirk T. Schroder

And it's more than five times the 4 percent that did so in 1998, the first year the tests were given.

"This is a tremendous step and the credit goes to hard-working teachers in Virginia's public schools," said Kirk T. Schroder, the president of the state board.

State officials said they were encouraged that many districts had improved their standing over previous years; 58 of the state's 132 districts now have at least one fully accredited school.

But teachers' groups, who have criticized state officials for demanding too much, too soon and relying on tests that stress memorization of facts, said schools still have a long way to go.

Starting in 2007, Virginia schools will lose their accreditation if less than 70 percent of their students pass tests in four subject areas—English, mathematics, history, and science. Students take exams in grades 3, 5, and 8, and by 2004, they will be required to pass a battery of tests to earn a high school diploma.

"The general concern is, what if you have done all this work and the students don't get there?" said Marian Flickinger, the president of the Norfolk Federation of Teachers.

—Jessica Portner

Vol. 20, Issue 9, Page 20

Published in Print: November 1, 2000, as State Journal

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