37 schools across the state have been marked as low-performing and need state assistance, two of those schools are in Roanoke City: Lincoln Terrace Elementary and William Fleming High School.  The other school in our viewing area getting a "Priority" designation was Albert Harris Elementary.

Something to keep in mind here; the results released today are the federal benchmarks known as Annual Measurable Objectives, or AMO's that are based on the state's standards of learning tests or SOLs.

This is the second consecutive year that both Lincoln Terrace and Fleming are on this list.

It's also the second year that the state made the tests more difficult.

School leaders tell me if a school did worse on the SOL tests than the previous year, they got negative marks.

The schools state leaders are most concerned about are called priority schools.

They get select a state-approved team to help them turn scores around.

The next category is focus schools.

They're still subject to state intervention, but they're not as low-performing as the priority schools, there are focus schools that did better than last year.

Keep this in mind, nearly 25% of all the schools in Virginia didn't meet all of the AMO requirements in some way.

Those schools need to come up with their own plan to raise student achievement.

Roanoke City Schools' Superintendent Rita Bishop says labeling schools as failing isn't necessarily fair given the new, difficult standardized tests.

"We had a more rigorous test. They went down, they still exceeded it, but they couldn't beat what they'd done before on an easier test.  I don't think it's fair."

In terms of federal accountability, the news isn't all bad.

A few schools in our area made it off that priority list because of stronger performance on the SOL: Fries School in Grayson County, and Westside Elementary School here Roanoke City.


The Virginia Department of Education released Federal School Accountability data Tuesday.

Albert Harris Elementary School in Martinsville, and Lincoln Terrace Elementary School and William Fleming High School in Roanoke were among 37 schools across the commonwealth put on Priority Status. That means those schools have to get outside help from state-approved partners to help design and implement new teaching models that meet state and federal requirements.

Two local schools that were given Priority Status last year were taken off this year’s list. They are Fries School in Grayson County and Westside Elementary School in Roanoke.

Some area schools were also designated as Improving Focus Schools, meaning they still require improvement. The focus school designation simply means the school's improvement plan is subject to state scrutiny, just not as majorly as a priority school. The following schools were on the "Focus" list last year, but have improved from last year to this year. They include: Big Island and Body Camp Elementary in Bedford; Altavista and Rustburg Elementary in Campbell County; Schoolfield Elementary in Danville; and Heritage, Paul Munro and Robert Payne Elementary Schools in Lynchburg.

Some other local schools were put on the Focus School list because they did not meet their Annual Measurable Objectives. However, they weren’t designated as Priority Status. Those schools include: Madison Heights Elementary in Amherst County; Bedford Elementary, Bedford Primary, and Moneta Elementary in Bedford County; and Brookneal Elementary.

Here is the news release from the Virginia Department of Education:

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has identified 37 low-performing schools as Priority schools that must engage state-approved turnaround partners to help design and implement school-reform models that meet state and federal requirements. Another 73 schools, designated as Focus schools, must employ state-approved, school-improvement coaches. The designations are based on student achievement and outcomes during 2012-2013.

Under a two-year flexibility waiver granted in 2012 by the US Department of Education (USED), interventions under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act — also known since 2001 as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) — are focused on Virginia’s lowest-performing schools.

The waiver granted Virginia schools relief from outdated NCLB-era rules and requires the state to designate the lowest-performing five percent of Title I schools as Priority schools. Another 10 percent of Title I schools are identified as Focus schools based on the achievement of historically low-performing subgroups. Title I of NCLB provides funding for schools with high percentages of low-income students.

The waiver also sets annual measurable objectives (AMOs) for narrowing achievement gaps in reading, mathematics and high school graduation rates. The AMOs serve as yearly progress goals for students in low-performing schools. Higher-performing schools are to improve or maintain achievement levels.

“It is important to consider the increased rigor of Virginia’s new reading and mathematics Standards of Learning (SOL) tests before making conclusions about schools that missed annual objectives,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright said. “Virginia has raised the bar to prepare students for the realities of the 21st century. Our challenge — from the superintendent’s office to the classroom — is to make sure students have the instruction and interventions they need to achieve the commonwealth’s college- and career-ready expectations, regardless of who they are or where they live.”