Local SOL results reflect state gains

Virginia students continued to improve their performance on Standards of Learning tests after revised standards were put in place during the past few years.

Statewide, a substantially higher percentage of students in almost every graded testing group passed the mathematics, reading and writing SOLs, with the exception of a 1 percent decrease in end-of-course reading and writing tests taken in high school. In some cases, pass rates on reading and mathematics tests increased up to 7 percent. Overall rates for both reading and math rose from 74 to 79 percent.

For science and history or social science tests, state averages of student proficiency saw less dramatic increases or stayed the same. While the passing rates of some tests averaged in the 60s last year, no test average dipped below 72 percent this year.

With some variation from school to school and in certain grade levels, these trends were reflected in county averages within the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

Four elementary schools in Frederick County were declared focus schools that required testing coaches after last year’s SOL results: Apple Pie Ridge, Indian Hollow, Orchard View and Redbud Run. Each of those schools have seen increased passing rates for almost all tests, ranging from the mid 60s to the upper 80s.

Frederick County Public Schools Superintendent David Sovine said that while some averages may not have changed for certain schools, many individual students have seen progress through better scores that don’t yet qualify them to pass and contribute to those averages.

“The student is making progress, success,” said Assistant Superintendent for Instruction James Angelo. “That growth is not necessarily recognized in those pass rates.”

Geometry classes in Robert E. Aylor Middle, James Wood Middle, Frederick County Middle and Admiral Richard E. Byrd Middle had 100 percent of students pass.

According to Shenandoah County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Evelyn Linaburg, the sheer number of students poses one of the biggest challenges for unifying curriculum and caused further limits on student retakes that began this year.

Students in Shenandoah County needed to have an initial score between 390 and 399 to retake the test and pass with 400 or higher, and expedited retakes were only allowed in reading and math. But with a 50 percent pass rate on those retakes, Linaburg said the county will look to expand those limits in the future.

Linaburg said she anticipates that several accreditation warnings for Shenandoah County schools will be dropped after improvements in test results. Strasburg High School, for example, maintained several high passing averages and boosted its algebra I average from 53 to 70 percent.

“Once you get into those high 80-low 90 percentiles … you may see a little bit of up and down,” she said.

The average writing pass rates in Shenandoah County dropped a percentage point, and reading only increased by three points. With some schools that will maintain or gain accreditation with warning, Linaburg said the county will be focusing on language arts this year.

Of Shenandoah County’s schools, several subjects had 100 percent pass rates: algebra I at North Fork Middle, geometry and Earth science at Signal Knob Middle and eighth grade reading at Stonewall Jackson High School.

Warren County’s averages increased across the board in reading, history and elementary to middle school math tests. Upper level reading and writing pass rates reflected state averages and faltered by a few points.

Ressie Jeffries Elementary was the first school in the county to earn accreditation with a warning after last year’s scores, but saw great improvement in passing averages except for a one point decrease in science scores. Math pass rates saw the most dramatic increase: 66 percent of fourth graders passed last year and 82 percent passed this year.

Two Warren County schools can boast 100 percent pass rates for this year; A.S. Rhodes Elementary in Virginia studies and Warren County Middle in algebra II.

Clarke County Superintendent William C. “Chuck” Bishop Jr. said that the option for third through eighth graders to retake tests helped to bolster the county’s pass rates: 47 percent of children who sat for them a second time passed.

D.G. Cooley Elementary and Boyce Elementary will remain identified as focus schools for the second of their mandatory two years, but both schools have seen increased pass rates for reading and math tests. Boyce’s third grade math tests had pass rates increase by 15 percent, but their fourth grade rates decreased by eight. Most of D.G. Cooley’s pass rates remained about the same with a couple percentage point differences up and down in different grade levels.

Bishop does anticipate that the county’s graduation rate of 98 percent will prove to be one of the highest in the state.

With average pass rates increasing by as many as seven percentage points in some counties, administrators will continue to encourage effective educational methods within their schools.

“We don’t overemphasize test scores,” Angelo said. “We see test scores as a result of that high quality teaching.”

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com

Correction: A story published in Wednesday’s paper should have said that Warren County High School had 100 percent pass rates in algebra II SOL tests.