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Officials: City SOLs show need for change
To align instruction with new standards
Thursday, August 28, 2014
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer
Compared with its 2012-13 pass rates, Martinsville City Public Schools’ 2013-14 Standards of Learning (SOL) pass rates increased on eight measures, declined on 23 measures and stayed the same on one, according to data on the Virginia Department of Education website.
MCPS’ 2013-14 pass rates equaled Virginia’s pass rates on two measures and trailed Virginia’s pass rates on 30 measures.
Superintendent Pam Heath and Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Angilee Downing said, overall, the test results are not representative of the abilities of students. Rather, they show the need to align instruction with new standards, they said.
“It is an alignment issue,” Heath said.
“Old standards were more knowledge-based,” Downing said. “New standards are real-world applications of knowledge.”
Among the examples Downing gave of real-world applications were multi-step problems and comparing passages instead of reading one passage and answering questions.
Heath and Downing said the school division has been, is continuing to or plans to make improvements to align instruction with new standards, including professional development, personnel adjustments and designing assessments to assess higher-level skills. Another focus is two-way communication and relationships with families, such as the development of a homework platform.
“We all want the same thing: for them (students) to be successful,” Downing said.
She also pointed out that last school year at Albert Harris Elementary, 27 percent of students were reading on or above grade level. By spring, that had increased to 47 percent, she said.
Another improvement Heath and Downing mentioned is that in fifth grade at both elementary schools, the division did away with departmentalizing and went back to the traditional method of one teacher teaching all subjects.
“I truly believe we have structures in place, and this will be a turnaround year for us,” Heath said.
She and Downing said they are celebrating some dramatic gains that have taken place where curriculum has been aligned.
They mentioned Algebra 2, in which the SOL pass rate for the division increased from 51 percent in 2012-13 to 82 percent in 2013-14. Algebra 2 has primarily ninth-grade students and is considered an indicator for college readiness, Heath said.
Heath and Downing also mentioned chemistry, in which the SOL pass rate increased from 71 percent in 2012-13 to 84 percent in 2013-14.
Overall, Heath said, “Our (SOL) scores are not where they need to be. We recognize that and take it very seriously.”
SOL results by school follow.
Compared with their 2012-13 pass rates:
• Albert Harris Elementary’s 2013-14 SOL pass rates increased on five measures and declined on six measures. Albert Harris’ 2013-14 pass rates exceeded Virginia’s pass rates on two measures and trailed Virginia’s pass rates on nine measures.
• Patrick Henry Elementary’s 2013-14 SOL pass rates increased on two measures and declined on nine measures. Patrick Henry’s 2013-14 pass rates exceeded Virginia’s pass rates on two measures and trailed Virginia’s pass rates on nine measures.
• Martinsville Middle School’s 2013-14 SOL pass rates increased on two measures, declined on nine measures and stayed the same on one measure. Martinsville Middle’s 2013-14 pass rates trailed Virginia’s pass rates on 12 measures.
• Martinsville High School’s 2013-14 SOL pass rates increased on five measures and declined on six measures. MHS’ 2013-14 pass rates exceeded Virginia’s pass rate on one measure, equaled Virginia’s pass rate on one measure and trailed Virginia’s pass rates on nine measures.