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SOL scores: Improvements and trouble spots

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By Josette Keelor

The results of the 2013-14 Standards of Learning tests released Wednesday by the Virginia Department of Education indicate improvements and trouble spots for area schools.

Warren County Public Schools' pass rates mainly increased or remained the same, with writing losing four points from last year, and science slipping a point from 82 to 81 percent.

In Shenandoah County Public Schools, pass rates decreased in reading, history and social studies and in science. Pass rates in writing and math held steady at 71 percent and 73 percent, respectively.

Pass scores for Frederick County Public Schools mainly decreased from last year's in four out of five categories, increasing only in math from last year's 64 percent to this year's 69.

In Clarke County, scores increased in history and social studies and in math, and decreased in reading, writing and science.

According to Jeremy Raley, superintendent in Shenandoah County schools, SOL results are something the county has been considering for the coming school year.

"Something important is continuous growth and improvement," he said. "[Schools are] constantly striving to improve ... so that we can make gains on all levels," he said.

But greater surprises came at the school levels.

Shenandoah, Clarke and Frederick all saw 100 percent pass rates in some classes: algebra I at North Fork Middle School in Quicksburg and Peter Muhlenburg Middle in Woodstock, geometry at Clarke County's Johnson-Williams Middle School, and third grade math at Bass-Hoover in Stephens City. Sherando High School and Middletown Elementary also increased scores in most subjects.

In Warren County, E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School saw gains in almost all scores from last year, though Ressie Jeffries Elementary's all fell.

When compared to state averages of scores in math, reading, writing, science and history or social studies, area schools varied.

Virginia's passing rate for math was 74 percent this year, but even below the state average, area districts are focusing on personal improvements.

Jim Angelo, assistant superintendent for instruction in Frederick County, said he's pleased with gains the county has seen since Virginia initiated SOL tests in the 2011-12 school year.

"From the math perspective, we're seeing gains as well in the tests from a few years back," Angelo said. "We initially had an overall pass rate of 62 in that first year. We're up to 69 percent," he said.

Shenandoah's math scores held steady at 73 from last year's percentage. Clarke County rose from 70 to 72 this year, and Warren saw a leap from 68 to 72 percent.

But current scores are also reflective of changes to SOLs, reminded Greg Drescher, Warren County's assistant superintendent of instruction.

"I would remind everyone that prior to the SOL revisions in Math our pass rates ranged from 88% to 94% at our elementary schools," he stated in an email on Wednesday.
Previously, Warren's pass rates ranged from 86 to 90 percent in reading, "way above the state expectation," now 70 percent in math and 75 in reading.

Because of the changes, state averages in reading plummeted since the 2011-12 SOL tests, which at the time reflected scores in the high 80s and low 90s but now holds steady at about 71 percent for elementary school and 73 for middle school. Statewide high school end-of-course reading is up from 89 to 90 percent since last year.

Writing, too, holds at 71 percent for 5th graders and 70 percent for 8th graders, statewide. End-of-course writing tests fell in percentage points 87 to 84 percent statewide.

Locally, Clarke and Warren counties met the combined state reading average of 74 percent. Shenandoah's reading average rose three points from last year to arrive at 72, and Frederick's dropped to 70 from last year's 73 percent.

In writing, Clarke saw a dip from 77 percent to 75, Frederick fell from 76 to 72 and Warren from 73 to 69 percent. Shenandoah held steady at 71 percent.

History and social studies scores around the county mirrored state averages at 84 percent across three counties and 86 in Frederick. Science scores also met or exceeded the state average of 80 percent, with Shenandoah and Frederick at 80, Warren at 81 and Clarke at 82.

In Clarke County, "We continue to work toward achieving good scores on SOL tests," said Superintendent Chuck Bishop, "but it is a work in progress. I want to point out that we have to be about more than one test on a given day and looking at that as the only method of student achievement."

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com

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