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Fully accredited: Roanoke City Schools making strides academically

ROANOKE, Va.- – Roanoke City Schools are making great strides academically. According to new school ratings 92 percent of Virginia schools are fully accredited this year and Roanoke City made the list. 

Dr. Rita Bishop, Roanoke City Schools superintendent said the revised accreditation standards has certainly helped. 

"We worked very hard to get here for a very long time."

Hurt Park has shown the most improvement. It's now in the clear after school leaders were expecting an accredited with conditions status. 

"We put in some new technologies and some music instruments thanks to our partnership with VH1. So we have students playing instruments. We have a great facility. We have a brand new gym," said  Bishop. 

Schools are now judged by several school quality indicators that impacts accreditation. They include: overall proficiency in science, English achievement gaps among student groups, mathematics achievement gaps among student groups and absenteeism, which is the biggest problem in the city schools. 

"You just can't be absent. And it's a challenge," said Bishop.  

"Chronic absenteeism for accreditation at this time, there are no differences between excuse an unexcused," said Dr. Julie Drewry, director of student improvement. 

Some 17.46 percent of Roanoke City students were considered chronically absent last year. They are absent for various reasons according to Drewry. That means a student is missing 18 days a year or two days a month. Chronic absenteeism is missing 10 percent or more a school year. 

"We have a lot of students who have chronic illnesses like asthma. They keep them out of school. We also have a lot of generational truancy in Roanoke. We have a large transient population," said Drewry.

Having a student support specialist is one of the efforts in place to encourage attendance.

"We do different promotions in our schools for attendance. We have the 100 percent club in some of our schools. We have attendance trips in some of our schools," said Drewry. 

School leaders say absenteeism is a problem that will take everyone to fix.