Hampton Roads schools earn accreditation, but science remains problem area, data shows

The state released school accreditation data that shows a slight decline in the number of accredited schools across the state since before the pandemic.

For the 2022-2023 school year, 1,628 out of 1,830 schools are accredited, or 89%. This is a 3% decrease from 2019-2020, which was the last time the Department of Education calculated school ratings.

School systems across Hampton Roads are all accredited. However, the number of schools accredited with conditions increased. Academic achievement in science remained a problem area for many schools in the region and the state.

The school systems in Virginia Beach and York County were once again all accredited with no conditions.

Approximately 50 schools in the region are accredited with conditions this year. In the 2019-2020 school year, just over 30 schools in Hampton Roads were accredited with conditions.

The state has used school quality indicators for all grade levels which include overall proficiency and growth in reading, writing, math and science, achievement gaps in English and math among student groups and absenteeism. High schools also factor in graduation and dropout rates and college, career and civic readiness. Following below state standards for any one of these indicators can result in accreditation with conditions.

Accreditation information for each school can be found on the Virginia School Quality Profiles website.

Some school divisions like Hampton City Schools, Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools, Suffolk Public Schools and Chesapeake Public Schools had been accredited without any conditions before the pandemic. Now, they see a small number of schools which fell below state standards on certain school quality indicators. Hampton and Chesapeake each had three schools accredited with conditions, while WJCC had one and Suffolk had four.

Portsmouth Public Schools has eight schools accredited with conditions. In 2019-2020, the division had five.

In these school divisions, academic achievement in science was the most common indicator their schools missed — if they fell below standards at all. Achievement gaps in both math and science for students with disabilities were also common.

John Caggiano, deputy superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment in Hampton’s school system, addressed the issue in a video posted to the division’s YouTube channel Friday, saying that division leaders took a closer look at their science curriculum and data over the summer.

“We’ve revised assessments to tighten alignment,” Caggiano said. “We’ve made some curricular revisions, particularly to grade five science...”

He also acknowledged “rock star teachers” who have gotten creative with coming up with ways to address student achievement in science.

Like before the pandemic, Norfolk Public Schools and Newport News Public Schools saw the highest number of schools accredited with conditions in the region with 18 and 15 schools respectively. In 2019-2020, they had 14 each.

Norfolk Public Schools Chief Academic Officer James Pohl said in a press release that falling below state standards in science was so widespread, had the state not included science achievements in its calculations, more schools would have been fully accredited without conditions. He added much of the instruction for the last science assessment had occurred mostly online and “pacing and delivery of science instruction proved especially challenging.”

State Superintendent Jillian Balow said the slight decline in accreditation numbers suggests the current system is flawed in tracking learning loss following virtual learning during the pandemic.

“Accreditation is one of the primary drivers of state interventions and local efforts to improve outcomes for students, and frankly, the school ratings we are releasing today fail to capture the extent of the crisis facing our schools and students,” Balow said in a press release.

In a statement Thursday, Gov. Glenn Youngkin described a need to change the system, and he hopes next year’s accreditation data will show an “accurate and understandable picture of how well every one of our schools is preparing our students for success in life.”

“Today’s accreditation ratings do not reflect catastrophic learning loss and growing achievement gaps facing Virginia’s students,” he said in a statement.

Kelsey Kendall, kelsey.kendall@virginiamedia.com