Archived Story

SOL results show room for improvement

Published 11:25am Wednesday, August 21, 2013

BY CAIN MADDEN/MANAGING EDITOR and STEPHEN H. COWLES/STAFF WRITER
cain.madden@tidewaternews.com; stephen.cowles@tidewaternews.com

Strong Points Weak Points Graphic.inddCOURTLAND—The Virginia Department of Education released its 2012-2013 Standards of Learning test scores Tuesday. Isle of Wight County Schools fared near or better than the state average in many categories, while Franklin and Southampton County schools were below the state average in many categories.

Around Virginia, on average, scores on the math tests rose, whereas the scores had dropped dramatically the previous year after more rigorous tests were released, said VDOE communications manager Julie Grimes.

Reading and science tests were expected to fall around the state, as this year a more rigorous test in these categories were introduced, said Grimes. She said the state is expecting these scores to rise next year.

Southampton County Public Schools

Southampton County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Alvera Parrish said she’s looking at the SOL results from two perspectives.

“The helicopter view is how we performed as a division,” Parrish said. “I have to have the helicopter view and also the weeds view, which is all the details. How each student, school and teacher did and what are our areas of opportunity.”

The superintendent also said she’ll “need more time to delve into specifics, but there’s been no opportunity as yet.”

Southampton schools held its convocation on Monday and the division-wide professional development this week are just two of the reasons Parrish said she has not delved into the specifics.

Parrish added she and the staff would share their analysis with the school board at next month’s meeting.

“I can tell you as I have looked at the performance of the state and Southampton Public schools, that our area of challenge – I kind of thought it might be – was mathematics. You know there was increased rigor. It’s no longer a multiple-choice test. Now, it requires higher-level thinking,” she said.

In addition, there’s also been a different way of delivering instructions as well as open-ended questions. Parrish also noted more technology was required for the tests, all of which are done online.

“We’re probably going to be around 62 percent in math, and English and reading has challenged every one across the state,” she said. “You’ll notice the state went down last year in English, reading and writing in grades 3-8 as well as end of course tests, those are your high school tests. That was a challenge for the state.”

Parrish said she thought the school system did well in science and history, and is quite pleased with those results.

The superintendent acknowledged additional work would have to be done in math, but she’s optimistic about the schools overall.

“I believe there’ll be a full accreditation rate in some of our schools,” Parrish said.

Among the initiatives intended for going forward, as she put it, will be the Cortez math lab, which was piloted this past school year.

This was described as a technology-generated mathematics program that enables students to work through the content at their own pace.

Parrish said it has the rigor that’s aligned with new state tests, and it has “a very positive impact on scores at the high school level.”

Southampton schools improved in mathematics for grades 3 and 4, algebra I and geometry from last year. The scores are below the state average in every category except grade 8 mathematics and algebra I.

The district fell from the previous year in English, as expected, though grades 7 and 8 are at or above the state average. Grades 3, 4 and 6 are 5 or more points worse than the state average.

Science scores for Southampton County schools also dropped from the previous year, as expected. Earth science and grade 8 science were at the state average, with grade 3 science and chemistry being 8 or more points below the state average.

Isle of Wight County Public Schools

Isle of Wight County School Superintendent Katrise Perera replied to the request for comment on the results through a statement released by school spokeswoman Kenita Bowers.

“During the 2012-13 testing year, Virginia implemented new versions of reading, writing and science SOL exams after introducing the new math SOL test during the prior school year,” Perera said. “The implementation of the more rigorous versions of the exams brought an expected result of lower passing rates during the implementation cycle, and as State Superintendent Dr. [Patricia] Wright stated, all Virginia school divisions would experience a decline in scores and pass rates on SOLs, whenever academic standards are increased – IWCS included.

“Going forward, it is important that we continue to provide the necessary guidance to our teachers as they directly support our students’ academic growth,” Perera continued. “Our continued focus and priorities will be on enhancing classroom instruction in the areas of rigor, relevance, and relationships – which I know will lead to better results.”

In Isle of Wight County, scores on average in the math category did rise from the previous year, and with the exception of algebra II scores, Isle of Wight schools are near or above the state average. Grades 4, 5 and 8 mathematics were 6 points or higher than the state average.

The district’s reading scores did decline, as expected by the commonwealth, but they are up compared to the state category in all but end of course English reading, which is 1 point below the state average. Grades 7 and 8 reading are 7 points or higher than the state average.

Isle of Wight schools dropped from the previous year in science, but the district is above the state average in all categories except end of course biology, which is 3 points below the average. Grades 3, 5 and 8 science were all 7 points or higher than the state average.

Franklin City Public School District

Despite repeated attempts, Dr. Shannon Smith, director of instruction, could not be reached for comment. Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle was off on Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.

Franklin schools improved in mathematics for grades 3, 6 and 7, and in algebra I and II, but all of the scores are still well below the state average, some of them dramatically so, including end of course geometry and grade 4 mathematics, which are more than 35 points below the state average.

The district did fall from the previous year, and it is well below the state average in the English category as well, with grades 4, 5, 6 and 7 being more than 20 points below the state average.

Franklin schools dropped in all science categories except for end of course chemistry, which rose from the previous year. Chemistry is also 7 points higher than the state average. Grades 3, 5 and 8, and end of course earth science were 15 points or more below the state average.

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