Charles City, New Kent schools earn full accreditation for 2018-2019 school year
All four schools in New Kent County and both schools in Charles City County have earned full accreditation for the 2018-2019 school year.
Virginia’s Department of Education (VDOE) released accreditation numbers and Standards of Learning (SOL) data on Aug. 22.
“It’s been a very good topic of conversation with the teachers,” said Charles City superintendent of schools David Gaston when asked about the schools’ accreditation for the second straight year. “It’s a testament to the work they’ve been doing.”
Charles City County schools saw improvement in 11 categories in this year’s SOL released scores. Major improvement areas include grade six English (76 to 84), grade eight writing (64 to 80), grade eight mathematics (35 to 50), biology (69 to 79), and earth science (74 to 81). Charles City eclipsed the 70 percent mark in 12 subject areas, the 80 percent barrier in seven areas. Charles City’s schools’ strongest area was civics and economics, finishing with a 94 percent passing rate. The system also had six areas that had 14 percent or more students who passed achieve an advance rating. Charles City schools exceeded or matched the state average in five subject areas.
“The challenge in Charles City is our student engagement in classes,” Gaston said. “We are small [in numbers] but we want to expose our kids to courses that they want.
“The bigger challenge is that we have to rethink about the curriculum and think about ways to teach the students,” he continued. “Overall, we’re confident about it.”
“The teachers make the difference in courses and they are starting to teach in more meaningful ways,” Gaston added. “They are using more real-life applications and when the student gets excited about engagement into the lesson, it makes a world of difference.”
New Kent County schools achieved a passing rate of 75 in all but one area according to the released SOL scores.
“We were focused on reading district-wide this past year and they made gains,” said New Kent superintendent Dave Myers. “Especially at New Kent Middle School, they are getting a love for reading and they jumped five points this year.”
The school continues to exceed the state average, surpassing the mean average in 22 of 29 areas. New Kent students eclipsed the 80 percent mark in 21 subjects and the 90 percent passing rate in three areas. New Kent improved in 14 testing areas, with the greatest jump coming in eighth grade reading (71 to 80). In 10 subject tests taken by New Kent pupils, at least 20 percent passed those tests with an advanced rating, with the greatest number being 43 percent in Virginia Studies. New Kent’s highest scores came in the areas of geography (94 percent), chemistry (94 percent), and Algebra I (90 percent).
“Statewide, the averages went down across the board, but New Kent schools went up,” Myers continued, pointing to gains in math, reading, and science. “They are not large amounts of growth, but they are significant, and I’m pleased overall.
“We have instructional framework that is focused on crossing over that rigger divide as opposed to ‘learn it, shovel it, and regurgitate it’,” the superintendent continued, focusing on a student’s ability to retain information. “That is something we are working on in our professional development.”
Each superintendent echoed each other when it came to terms of the scores received, pointing to the growth schools within the division made over the last year.
“The elementary school gave us a leg up and there was a dramatic change in proficiency when it came to math and science,” Gaston said, emphasizing how kids started below grade level in those categories only to become advanced proficiently at the end of the year. “The students made two to three years of gains within a one-year span. That to me is more of a success story than any SOL score.”
“This is a division that we have seen grow over the years and I believe we can push even higher,” said Myers. “I believe we can get all our scores into the 80s and 90s.
“The bigger picture is that with different types of learners, we will naturally move into the 90s and I think we can do it,” he added.
Both superintendents commented that the transition to the new accreditation format that begins next year is something the students are adjusting to as well as teachers and staff.
“We’re focusing on it and we are looking to rewrite and re-pace curriculum,” Gaston said. “It’s not complicated; just a tweak here and there along with taking different approaches will help us. “We are addressing all students and working on giving them a level playing field.
“It’s all about every single student in our school system and not the categories,” the superintendent added. “We are going with our remediation, data talks, needs assessment, and reteach concepts to our students. Once they master it, we will move on.”
“It’s definitely going to be a big change,” Myers commented. “There are going to be more focused on our measures in growth and that can be challenging.
“Some groups are very small and can have a huge effect,” the superintendent added. “However, we are going to work with all students because each child is very important to us.”
Overall, both school leaders said they were pleased with the SOL results but emphasized that they will do more.
“Quality and effectiveness is a continuous improvement cycle and we are constantly involving,” Gaston said. “We want to construct more meaningful programs for parents to see the ways they can help at home and how they can get involved.
“We want them to help us help them, and that makes for better opportunities to learn,” the superintendent added. “Just having their child read to them or explain a math problem is a way to encourage them.
“Little ole Charles City has a lot more going on in it than what most people think. Our advantage is our size and it allows us to connect with students and have more personal engagement and I think that is what makes our students and community great,” Gaston concluded.
“Our division is very fast-growing and as we get a new diversity of learners, we are going to focus on the social, college-ready curriculum,” Myers said. “We want to provide high levels of curriculum and have our students engage in high-level thinking.
“We are going to work on our professional development, maximize outside resources, observations, and peer reviews,” the superintendent said as he began to conclude. “We are going to focus heavily on that as it will help continue providing a quality education to the students here in New Kent.”