Southampton encouraged by SOL results so far

Published 3:37 pm Wednesday, August 27, 2014

COURTLAND—Southampton Schools Superintendent Dr. Alvera Parrish considers the SOL scores released on Wednesday to be preliminary because the information is not finalized until Sept. 15. Graduation rates and summer school data, for example, still have to be factored in, she said.

Nevertheless, Parrish said her office is encouraged by what’s been reviewed.

“This year we’re pleased…very pleased. There are six comprehensive schools, and four are fully accredited,” she said with a smile. Those are Nottoway Elementary, Meherrin Elementary, Southampton Middle and Southampton High schools.

“Overall, we only missed two of the 27 benchmarks,” Parrish said. “Two schools, Capron Elementary and Riverdale Elementary, are accredited with warning in English.”

As tests become more difficult or rigorous, there’s an expected initial decline in scores for the first year to year and-a-half.

Indeed there’s some sense of symmetry, if you will, in the overall pass rates for the schools of Southampton County in 2013-2014. Capron and Nottoway had increases in three subjects, where Meherrin and Nottoway saw declines in the same three categories. Where Southampton Middle School had declines in three subjects, Southampton High experienced increases in three categories.

Division-wide, though, there were pass rate decreases in the following: English reading from 70 percent in 2012-2013 to 67 percent in 2013-2014; English writing from 74 percent to 70 percent; and science from 78 percent to 75 percent. The pass rate increase was in math from 63 percent to 75 percent.

Capron Elementary

Compared to 2012-2013, there were increases in the 2013-2014 overall pass rates for three of four categories. Reading (combined with writing) went up at 65 percent; math was up at 81 percent; and science rose to 76 percent. The decline was in history, which includes Virginia Studies, going from 88 percent to 76.5 percent. Pass rates just for reading for grades 3-5 were at 64 percent, 57 percent and 74 percent respectively. The state pass rate averages are 69 percent, 70 percent and 73 percent respectively.

Meherrin Elementary

The school saw decreases in the 2013-2014 overall pass rates in three of four categories. Reading/writing were down at 61 percent; history at 88 percent and science at 73.5 percent. The increase was in math at 83.3 percent. In that subject, grades 3, 4 and 5 had gains of 13 percent, 17 percent and 10 percent respectively.

Nottoway Elementary

For 2013-2014, gains were witnessed in the overall pass rate for three subjects: reading/writing, history and math at 70.5 percent; 90 percent and 82 percent respectively. The decline was seen in science going from 89.5 percent in 2012-2013 to 83 percent this past school year. In math, grades 3 through 5 were each above the state pass rates of 67 percent, 80 percent and 73 percent respectively.

Riverdale Elementary

Like Meherrin, the overall pass rates for 2013-2014 were down in the same three subjects: reading/writing at 58.25 percent; history at 77.5 percent; and science at 63 percent. The overall pass rate in math was at 72.6 percent, compared to 56.6 percent the previous year. In that same subject, the 4th-graders alone had a 92 percent pass rate this past year, which is up 34 percentile points from 58 percent in 2012-2013.

Southampton High

Overall pass rates for 2013-2014 were up in history, math and science, with gains at 91.5 percent, 92.3 percent and 84.3 percent respectively. The only decline in reading/writing, and that was only 1 percent compared to 2012-2013’s rate of 92.5 percent. With the exception of Algebra II, Chemistry and Earth Science, the school scored above the state’s 2013-2014 pass rate averages in the other subjects.

Southampton Middle

There were declines in the overall pass rates in 2013-2014 with reading/writing at 64.5 percent (71.25 percent in 2012-2013); history at 72 percent (82.3 percent) and science at 73 percent (85.5 percent). Math was up at 74.6 percent. The year before it was at 62.5 percent, but that does not include geometry, for which no figure was given. Grades 6 through 8 were each below the state’s pass rate average of 2013-2014.

“Last year this time three schools were accredited with warning in math,” Parrish said. “The great news is that all three are out of warning because they improved in math. That’s a great accomplishment.”

In fact, all the schools saw increases in math scores compared to the 2012-2013 year.

Further, the state’s overall pass rate in math (Algebra I, II and Geometry) is 79 percent for 2013-2014, and Southampton High School’s average in that category was 88 percent. In history, it was 86 percent for the state average and 92 percent for the school. In science, the state and school averages were both 84.3 percent.

Factors that made the exams more challenging are not only how these are done, but also more is expected than just multiple choice questions.

The testing is done online and the students must use keyboards to submit their answers. In English, for example, the students demonstrate what they’ve learned by answering questions about content in reading, composition skills and critical thinking.

“We work with the students to prepare them for the same level of rigor,” Parrish said.

She added that over the summer several groups of teachers concentrated on curriculum, such as for reading. From this they will be able to create different ways to teach and test. For example, rather than just concentrating on facts about a historical event, the students would have to learn how to apply that information to other situations.

Parrish referenced Bloom’s taxonomy, which is a hierarchy of learning objectives. These are, from bottom to top, knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis (taking content to create something new) and evaluation.

“The alignment of curriculum, instruction and assessment are key to success,” Parrish said. “We’ll get much better results concentrating on student progress. We’re more prepared.”

As she speaks about the upcoming year, the enthusiasm is evident in her smiles and pitch.

“This year, I believe, all schools will be fully accredited,” Parrish said. “We’re excited about this year.

“I think this is going to be our banner year!”