EDUCATION

Jefferson-Houston School loses accreditation, works to get it back

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More than 300 students at an elementary school in Alexandria are facing a unique and distressing situation - they're no longer receiving a state-approved education.

The Virginia Board of Education has denied a request by the Jefferson-Houston School, which is located on Cameron Street near Old Town Alexandria, to regain accreditation. Earlier this year, the school lost all accreditation when students scored only 65 percent and 35 percent respectively on the state's reading and math exams.

Jefferson-Houston has long fought an uphill battle, garnering only conditional accreditation for the last decade.

"I think it's extremely unfair," Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Morton Sherman said. "It's a wrong message and it's not in any way indicative of what's going on here."

What Sherman is referencing is the changes the school has made, including introducing a new staff and a new reading program.

It's a challenge that principal Rosalyn Rice-Harris says the school is still trying to work with, one that compels them to figure out how to effectively educate a very diverse student body.

"Once we continue our work to figure out the formula and increase student achievement, we'll see it happen," she said.

Losing accreditation doesn't mean that Jefferson-Houston will lose any funding; however, the state board is sending a consultant in to work with the school over the next three years to help the school regain full status.

In the mean time, Rice-Harris says administrators are meeting with teachers more often and that parents are more involved now more than ever. In addition to a few curriculum changes, parents say that students are flourishing despite low test scores.

"They're happy, they're learning...to work together, they're growing, and that's important as well," parent Kelly Dresen said.

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