Virginia Beach schools boast 100% accreditation

Dr. Aaron Spence, superintendent of Virginia Beach City Public Schools. (WAVY-TV 10 Photo).

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Department of Education will announce the 2017-2018 school accreditation ratings next week — but Virginia Beach is already bragging it earned 100 percent accreditation.

That is something almost unheard of for a district of its size. 10 On Your Side’s Stephanie Harris sat down with administrators to learn the secret to their success.

Virginia Beach is the land of sand and sun. Schools Superintendent, Dr. Aaron Spence, said, “We have incredible teachers, incredible leadership and an amazing group of kids here.”

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However, he said, while the city may appear to have an edge over other local school districts, it’s not all smooth sailing. “We have almost 40 percent poverty in our school system, and we have a great deal of homelessness and many of the challenges other urban centers are dealing with.”

So how did Virginia Beach schools achieve 100 percent  accreditation while others struggle?

10 On Your Side went to Birdneck Elementary School, which earned full accreditation for the first time in three years, to talk with Principal Robert Yoshida.

“Some of these kids … I’d go outside and play basketball with them and just be in the classroom have lunch with the students, things like that really make a difference in a kids life,” he said.

Teachers at Birdneck spend 15 minutes each day sitting in a circle just talking with students. It’s time built into the schedule. “A big part of it really is building relationships and knowing where everyone is and knowing our kids like the back of our hand,” Yoshida told 10 on Your Side.

Birdneck also started double-dipping, according to Yoshida. That is, teaching two subjects at the same time. For instance, While looking at a map in social studies the teacher might ask, “Why Virginia was in big bold type and why it’s more bold than the word Richmond.”

Even in PE class, they might run to pick up a cone with a map on it. Yohshida said their Social studies scores jumped 23 points — proving it is possible in a Title I school.

Spence stressed that personal relationships with students and parents are the key to the success of Birdneck and five other schools that became fully accredited that had not been the year before.

“We have to have the mindset that every single child can be successful and no matter what the barrier to that success is its our job as educators to kick that barrier down,” Spence said.

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