New math standards nip local schools

Published 9:44 am Wednesday, August 15, 2012

RICHMOND—Western Tidewater school districts saw an almost across-the-board decrease in state test scores for math as a result of tougher standards over last year.

Schools statewide also struggled with the new tests as Algebra I scores fell from 94 percent passing in the 2010-2011 to 75 percent in 2011-2012, Algebra II scores fell from 91 percent passing to 69 percent and geometry fell from 87 percent passing to 74 percent, according to results released Tuesday.

Locally, most schools saw a double-digit dip in the number of students passing the Standards of Learning math tests in third through eighth grade as well as in Algebra I, Algebra II and geometry.



Franklin High School’s scores in geometry increased from 52 percent to 58 percent passing, but Algebra I fell from 81 percent to 40 percent passing and Algebra II scores fell from 61 percent to 27 percent passing.

Only 38 percent of Franklin’s third-graders passed the math portion compared to 83 percent last year. Fourth-graders passing the test dropped from 79 percent to 40 percent and fifth-graders fell from 84 percent to 44 percent passing.

In the state, 64 percent of third-graders passed the math test compared to 91 percent last year. Seventy percent of Virginia’s fourth-graders passed this year, compared to 89 percent a year ago, and 67 percent of fifth-graders passed compared to 89 percent a year earlier.

“We’ll be further analyzing this data and get to the root of the problem,” said Franklin Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle. “We’re going to be working with the Department of Education to get the resources we need to make these changes.”

If funding was available, the district could hire a math specialist, who would work with teachers in all three buildings to focus on bringing up the math scores, Belle said.

Scores were also released for reading, writing, history and science.

FHS saw its largest drop in chemistry, which fell from 96 percent a year ago to 89 percent for 2011-2012. The school increased its percentage in world history from 59 percent passing last year to 72 percent this year.



Southampton High School’s geometry scores fell from 93 percent passing to 50 percent, while Algebra I saw a drop from 99 percent passing to 71 percent and Algebra II scores dropped from 79 percent passing to 56 percent.

Southampton County School Board Member Roberta Naranjo said she wasn’t surprised, but blamed the state for the low math scores because it didn’t provide proper training and materials before making the tests tougher.

“They tried to take a quantum leap without building a good ladder,” Naranjo said. “Our students are more than capable, and our teachers are great, but you can’t do it without proper training and in-service.”

Forty-three percent of Southampton’s third-graders passed the math test, compared to 86 percent last year. Fourth- and sixth-graders passed it 55 percent of the time this year and 64 percent of fifth-graders passed.

The seventh-grade score was 41 percent passing, a 31 percent drop, and eighth-grade saw 70 percent passing, an 18 percent drop.

SHS’ biggest drop came in chemistry; 87 percent of students passed this year compared to 99 last year.

No one from the Southampton central office returned a call Tuesday.



Windsor High School saw a 21 percent drop in geometry from 83 percent passing to 62 percent as well as a 22 percent drop in Algebra II from 94 percent passing to 72 percent. Algebra I scores decreased from 85 percent passing to 45 percent this year.

Isle of Wight County Assistant Superintendent Laura Abel attributed the drop in math test scores to the tougher tests; a new component made 15 percent of the questions in the sixth-, seventh-, eighth-grade and high school tests “technology-enhanced.”

She said technology-enhanced included questions where the answer had to be dragged by a computer mouse and dropped into place and others that weren’t multiple choice.

“Unfortunately, VDOE was not able to release the new enhanced scope and sequence, lesson plans, and practice questions for the new math tests until late (February or March),” Abel said. “Since IWCS, like many other school divisions, is on a 4-by-4 schedule in high school so many of our students faced their EOC first semester math tests first semester not knowing what to expect nor could their teachers really help prepare them for the new format.”

Math scores for third-graders at Windsor Elementary dropped from 99 percent passing to 61 percent; scores at Carrsville Elementary dropped from 93 passing to 78 percent. Fourth-graders at Carrsville dropped from 100 percent passing to 88 percent and at Windsor from 97 percent passing to 81 percent. Fifth-graders saw a drop from 94 percent passing to 69 percent at Windsor and from 100 percent passing to 88 percent at Carrsville.

Windsor Middle School saw an increase from 84 percent passing to 90 percent in sixth grade, but fell off in seventh and eighth grades by 24 points and 16 points respectively.

The middle school saw a five-point increase in U.S. History, while WHS saw a four-point in the same subject. WHS’ biggest drop in a subject that wasn’t math was three points in chemistry.