August 6, 2008

One Beach Elementary Misses Accreditation

By Lauren Roth, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.

Aug. 6--VIRGINIA BEACH -- One Beach school will fail to make full accreditation this year, Superintendent Jim Merrill told the School Board on Tuesday evening.

It is the first time in four years that any Virginia Beach public school won't be fully accredited, the state Department of Education's measure of school performance.

Bettie F. Williams Elementary in Bayside missed the mark by falling below the required 70 percent pass rate on the fifth-grade history exam given during the 2007-08 year.

The school is part of the new "tri-campus," which splits students into separate buildings of kindergarten and first-graders, second- and third-graders, and fourth- and fifth-graders.

"Any time you have a first-of-its-kind program, you see the potential for impact on test results," Merrill said. "I believe we will continue to see improvement."

Principal George MacKay, who said he didn't want to make excuses, said one change will be to intertwine history with reading instruction in the coming school year.

The state history test is given in third and fifth grades. As a separate school of fourth- and fifth-graders for the first time this year, Williams could not combine third- and fif th-grade history scores to boost results.

Reading pass rates increased, and fourth-grade math scores vastly improved at Williams. That pass rate jumped 28 percentage points over the previous year, the largest improvement of any of the city's elementary schools.

"Our staff worked really, really hard," MacKay said.

Jared Cotton, who oversees testing for Beach schools, said Williams also tested nearly all of its special education students in 2007-08.

"It makes it harder to meet the target," Cotton said. "But it's a fight worth fighting."

Complete results for 82 schools at the Beach and other school divisions will be released by the state in late September.

Lauren Roth, (757) 222-5133, [email protected]


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