Published 8:30 am Friday, December 23, 2022
By Brian Carlton
Schools in Buckingham County are being reviewed. As part of a state requirement, officials with Buckingham County Public Schools are going through each building, identifying specific issues and ways to address them.
“The state determines who does academic reviews and in which areas,” said Buckingham County Assistant Superintendent Travis Ridley. “That’s determined based on our accreditation reports. Every (area) that we’re considered level two in or level three, we must conduct an academic review.”
The Virginia Department of Education decides if an individual school is accredited, or meets state standards, based on six categories. The state looks at a school’s English pass rate, English achievement gaps, math pass rate, math achievement gaps, science pass rate and if there is chronic absenteeism. If a school doesn’t meet state standards for multiple years, then the Department of Education steps in to help determine what’s needed to address the issues.
Each school receives a “quality rating” of Level One, Two or Three when being considered for accreditation. Level One means you meet or exceed the state standards. Level Two means you’re showing improvement, but haven’t quite got there yet. Finally, Level Three means there are issues, as the school is performing below state standards.
Academic reviews are designed to help districts improve. The district goes into each school and collects the information, then puts together a report. In this case, Buckingham County Central Office staff, led by Ridley, will develop plans to address the places they fell short. That report is then submitted to the Virginia Department of Education.
“The focus of the review is on the systems in place, the processes and the practices being implemented at each school, and also at the division level,” Ridley said.
WORKING TO MOVE FORWARD
The last academic review in Buckingham County happened in 2018. Speaking to the Buckingham County School Board on Wednesday, Dec. 14, Ridley said the district has conducted reviews at all schools except the middle and primary schools. That includes Buckingham Elementary, Buckingham County High School and Buckingham Career and Tech. The review for Buckingham Primary is set for Jan. 11, with Buckingham Middle School following on Jan. 13.
This year’s accreditation scores show each of the schools improved in some areas, while falling short in others.
For example, Buckingham Elementary and Buckingham Primary both struggled with pass rates in science. Only 41% of students at Buckingham Primary either passed the test or showed significant improvement. The number was identical at Buckingham Elementary.
For Buckingham Middle, the problem was English. Even though they improved, with 67% passing, compared to 66% in 2019, the school fell short of the 75% standard set by the state. Math, on the other hand, wasn’t a problem. The school’s 84% pass rate was much higher than the state’s 70% benchmark.
And finally, there’s Buckingham High, the school in the district fully accredited by the state. Students exceeded state standards across the board, with math a specific highlight. In 2019, the school reported that 73% of students either passed or showed significant improvement on the math test. This time around, that number spiked to 86%.
“The good thing is that we’ve seen a lot of positive things (in the review),” Ridley said.
Those reviews, done by a group of administrators, teachers and counselors from the district, will look at everything from career and civic readiness to chronic absenteeism, school climate and instructional leadership. They’ll go into lesson plans and examine if subjects are being presented in a way easy to understand.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The final report won’t be complete until the spring of 2023. Until then, Ridley told the board he’d be back each month, starting in January, to give updates on the process.