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Area SOL rates fall
Rates drop statewide on new math tests
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer
More rigorous math Standards Of Learning (SOL) tests in three subjects caused drops in the passing rates locally and statewide, according to data released Tuesday by the Virginia Department of Education.
The state revised and strengthened the math standards in 2009, and last year’s SOL tests were the first to reflect the increased rigor of the new standards, according to a VDOE news release.
The online math SOL tests taken by most students included new technology-enhanced items designed to mirror common classroom experiences. The items also required students to apply mathematical knowledge in solving multistep problems. Technology-enhanced items made up about 15 percent of each online middle and high school test, the release said.
Every school division in the area saw a drop in the passing rates for the SOL tests in geometry, Algebra I and Algebra II.
In the Henry County Schools, the pass rate in the 2010-2011 school year for geometry was 89, compared to a 62 pass rate in 2011-2012; the Algebra I pass rate dropped from 97 to 81; and the Algebra II rate dropped from 97 to 77, according to VDOE data.
In the Martinsville Schools, the geometry pass rate dropped from 76 to 54; Algebra I — 90 to 72; and Algebra II — 87 to 55.
In Patrick County Schools, the geometry pass rate went from 93 in 2010-2011 to 78; Algebra I — 98 to 86; and Algebra II — 97 to 84.
Statewide pass rates in those areas also dropped. The geometry pass rate went from 87 to 74; Algebra I — 94 to 75; and Algebra II — 91 to 69.
Students had the most difficulty on the grade 3, grade 7 and grade 8 tests. The third-grade test no longer assesses K-2 content. The seventh-grade assessment includes additional content and concepts formerly taught and tested in grade 8. The increased rigor of the eighth-grade standards is designed to prepare students who were not ready for Algebra I in middle school to tackle the course during their freshman year, the release said.
The same was true for area school systems, especially with eighth-grade math pass rates. In Henry County, there was a drop from 91 to 50; in Martinsville City, a drop from 81 to 25; and in Patrick County, a drop from 90 to 23.
“I’m pleased with the results considering it’s a new test,” said Patrick County Schools Superintendent Roger Morris. With any change, there comes a period of adjustment, he said, adding that he feels that the students are adjusting well.
“There’s still room for growth,” Morris said.
Throughout the summer, teachers and administrators collaborated to develop ways to improve scores for this year, he said. As a result, they will include more rigorous curriculum in the classroom, benchmark testing more in line with the new SOL tests and use all of the tools provided by the Virginia Department of Education, Morris added.
Henry County Schools Superintendent Jared Cotton said the students did not perform as well as the school system would have liked, but he understands how challenging a new test can be, especially a test that consists of some fill in the blank responses instead of all multiple choice answers as they had in the past.
While it’s no excuse, the school system was not provided with examples of what the new assessments would look like until later into last school year so it was hard to plan on how to best prepare students for the test, Cotton said.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Cotton said.
To get passing rates up, the school system has set up meetings for the division’s math teachers to collaborate to improve math instruction, relate real-life situations to math concepts so that the students fully understand what they are learning and conduct further student assessments to find out what students are understanding in the classroom, Cotton said.
Martinsville Schools Superintendent Pam Heath could not be reached for comment.
According to the VDOE:
• In Algebra I: Students in 80 of Virginia’s 132 school divisions and 452 schools achieved pass rates of 70 percent or higher; students in 37 divisions and 348 schools achieved pass rates of 80 percent or higher; and students in two divisions and 78 middle schools and three high schools achieved 100 percent pass rates.
• In geometry: Students in 68 divisions and 387 schools achieved pass rates of 70 percent or higher; students in 29 divisions and 304 schools achieved pass rates of 80 percent or higher; and students in 148 middle schools and two high schools achieved 100 percent pass rates.
• In Algebra II: Students in 55 divisions and 172 schools achieved pass rates of 70 percent or higher; students in 20 divisions and 95 schools achieved pass rates of 80 percent or higher; and students in eight middle schools and one high school achieved 100 percent pass rates.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright said in the release, “While we have a long climb before we reach the achievement levels we hope to see on the new mathematics tests, the results released today represent a good start and provide a solid foundation for further progress in 2012-2013.”
Statewide, 87 percent of the students who passed the new Algebra I SOL test were successful on their first attempt, as were 86 percent who passed the geometry test and 88 percent who passed the Algebra II test.
Twelve percent of students passing in Algebra I and Geometry succeeded on their second attempt, as did 13 percent of students who passed in Algebra II. Most students who were unsuccessful on a new mathematics end-of-course test in 2011-2012 took the assessment two or three times. These students will have additional opportunities to prepare for retesting during 2012-2013, the release said.
Accreditation ratings and student subgroup performance will be reported next month, along with data on progress in raising achievement in the commonwealth’s lowest-performing schools, as described in Virginia’s approved No Child Left Behind flexibility waiver. Three-year averaging will mitigate the impact of the 2011-2012 math tests on accreditation ratings and other accountability determinations, the release said.
“Raising standards was the right thing to do and in the long-term interest of Virginia students and our economy,” Gov. Bob McDonnell said in the release. “I commend all of our teachers and students for their excellent efforts in adapting to and embracing these challenging new standards. This is a necessary step in ensuring that Virginia students are ready to excel in our globally competitive economy. Higher standards mean greater accomplishments, and I know Virginia’s students, teachers and parents are ready for this challenge. It is a challenge we must meet if we’re going to succeed in the economy of the decades ahead.”
New English and science standards are set to be implemented during the 2012-2013 school year, The Associated Press reported.