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8 Virginia School Districts Recognized by Standard & Poor's for Narrowing Achievement Gaps.

NEW YORK, Aug. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Standard & Poor's School Evaluation Services announced today that it has identified eight Virginia school districts for significantly narrowing the gaps in achievement between black, Hispanic or economically disadvantaged students and their higher-performing classmates while simultaneously raising the average proficiency rates of the student groups being compared, such as black students and white students.

To be recognized in Standard & Poor's analytical report, school districts must:
 * serve all grades K-12;
 * enroll 30 students, on average, per student subgroup being compared, per
 grade;
 * reduce the achievement gap in overall reading and math proficiency
 (RaMP) rates by at least 5 percentage points between the 2002-03 and
 2003-04 school years; and
 * simultaneously raise the RaMP rates of both of the subgroups being
 compared over this same period.




"Closing the achievement gap is one of the most persistent challenges in American education today," said William Cox, executive managing director of Standard & Poor's School Evaluation Services. "Given the complex nature and extreme difficulty in closing these gaps, Standard & Poor's believes it is important to pay tribute to those school districts that have made progress in this area."

The school districts in Virginia identified by Standard & Poor's are: Botetourt County Public Schools, Brunswick County Public Schools, Charles City County Public Schools, Fluvanna County Public Schools, King William County Public Schools, Manassas City Public Schools, Middlesex County Public Schools and Winchester City Public Schools.

Botetourt County Public Schools, Charles City County Public Schools, King William County Public Schools, Middlesex County Public Schools and Winchester City Public Schools were recognized for narrowing the achievement gap between economically disadvantaged students and non-economically disadvantaged students. Winchester City Public Schools has the added distinction of narrowing the achievement gap between Hispanic students and white students.

Brunswick County Public Schools, Fluvanna County Public Schools and Manassas City Public Schools were recognized for narrowing the black-white achievement gap.

To see how many percentage points each district has narrowed these gaps, reporters should consult the analytical report on Virginia's achievement gaps at http://www.schoolmatters.com/

Standard & Poor's developed this analysis to recognize those school districts that have made significant improvement in reducing achievement gaps and to illuminate school districts that may serve as appropriate benchmarks for educators in other school districts in the state that are searching for ways to narrow their own achievement gaps while raising the performance of all of their students.

Achieving proficiency in reading and math for all students-not just some- by 2014 is one of the goals of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

For the purposes of this analytical report, academic performance was determined by using RaMP, which is the aggregate percentage of students within school districts scoring proficient or better on the state's reading and math tests.

Cox said he also hoped that Standard & Poor's analytical report sheds light on the power of using data to probe for diagnostic insights that can help improve educators' decision making.

Standard & Poor's conducted its analysis using data obtained from SchoolMatters.com.

SchoolMatters.com is a free public service sponsored by the National Education Data Partnership, a collaboration among the Council of Chief State School Officers, Standard & Poor's School Evaluation Services and the CELT Corporation. The National Education Data Partnership is generously funded by The Broad Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The list of school districts identified as significantly narrowing the achievement gap and the analysis used to identify them can be found on at http://www.schoolmatters.com/.

CONTACT: Susan Shafer, +1-212-438-2193, or Jason Feuchtwanger, +1-212-438-6042, both for Standard & Poor's

Web site: http://www.standardandpoors.com/
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Date:Aug 23, 2005
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