Administrators Explain Why Schools Missed Federal Benchmarks

Lynchburg, VA- Several schools in area are not making the grade when it comes to federal standards.

The Virginia Department of Education released the numbers this week: 75% are missing the mark in Lynchburg City Schools, Amherst County comes in second with 60%, and in Appomattox and Campbell County, about half of students met the standards.

School administrators say these numbers don't show schools that are failing, but a system that is changing and raising the bar.

Understanding why so many schools missed federal standards is more than just a numbers game. Administrators say two big things happened this year that made it harder on schools starting with the "Standards of Learning Tests," or SOL's.

"They were based on new math standards which were significantly more rigorously," said Michael Rudder, director of Elementary Education for Lynchburg City Schools.

The harder test, meant lower scores. The tests are supposed to hold schools accountable. Another factor in the low scores the state is now being judged under new federal guidelines after opting out of 'No Child Left Behind'.

"One of the criticisms of 'No Child Left Behind' was that it was an all or nothing type of arrangement in determining ratings for schools," said Julie Grimes, communication manager for the Virginia Department of Education.

So instead of receiving a failing grade for missing just one federal target, the new standards measure schools on how many targets they do meet.

"This is not failing schools. We don't have failing schools in our school division. Do we have schools that need improvement absolutely," said Rudder.

Schools who do not meet the new federal standards will have to develop improvement plans. Lynchburg City Schools are already doing that. And, next year school officials say the literacy portion of the SOL will get tougher as well. Many schools are trying to brace themselves for that.