93 percent of Virginia's public schools fully accredited

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Education officials say 93 percent of Virginia's public schools are fully accredited after meeting state benchmarks, down from last year because the state imposed more rigorous mathematics standards aimed at better preparing students for college or post-graduation employment.

The Virginia Department of Education said Wednesday that all but 122 of the state's 1,836 schools met objectives on 2011-12 Standards of Learning tests and other statewide assessments in English, mathematics, science and history - and, for high schools, graduation.

That's down from 96 percent last year. As predicted, the decrease is in part due to the revised math standards that proved to be a challenge for students during the last school year.

According to statewide data released earlier this month, 68 percent of students passed the math portion of the SOLs in the 2011-2012 school year, compared with 87 percent the year before.

"The board's move to more rigorous standards will continue to present accreditation challenges for many of the commonwealth's schools," Board of Education President David M. Foster said in a news release. "We are confident, however, that over the long haul our graduates will be better prepared to succeed in college and the workplace."

Schools were able to use a three-year average of test results to help lessen the impact of the lower test results, which officials said allowed 750 schools to earn full accreditation.

A similar impact is expected next year when the state implements higher standards for English and science, said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia Wright.

Among Virginia's high schools, 90 percent meet full accreditation standards, up from 86 percent last year when the state first included high school graduation and completion among its accountability measures. Officials said 88 percent of middle schools and 96 percent of elementary schools also are fully accredited.

To gain full accreditation, 70 percent of students in each middle- and high school must pass all four Standards of Learning subject areas.