Preliminary SOL scores show continued improvement

Published 10:07 am Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Virginia Department of Education announced on Tuesday that scores on the Standards of Learning tests have improved significantly since last year, as students statewide posted five-point overall gains in mathematics and reading and two points each in history, science and writing.

“I’m so proud of the dedication shown by teachers, students and the administrative staff of these schools in pursuing academic success,” Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said. “The legislation that we proposed and that I signed into law not only gives students a second chance, but more importantly gives them the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of the material.”

Locally, these preliminary results reflect a similar verdict, as several schools in Western Tidewater saw a significant increase from last year.

Pending official scores and graduation rates from the Virginia Department of Education, Franklin, Southampton and Windsor high schools will be fully accredited next school year. Those that did not reach the accreditation benchmarks include Franklin’s S.P. Morton Elementary School and Joseph P. King Jr. Middle School, as well as Southampton’s Riverdale Elementary. Initial results also show that Capron Elementary falls just below the 75th percentile benchmark needed in English to earn full accreditation, but the school projects that it will when the aforementioned adjustments are made this fall.

The most notable statistic from the preliminary results come in the Franklin City Public School system, where Franklin High remains accredited for the second-consecutive year. Students’ scores improved as much as 7 percent in subjects such as science (81 to 88) and 3 percent in English (79) and mathematics (71). History and social sciences remained the same at 85 percent.

Despite missing full accreditation, scores continue to rise at the other schools under the Franklin umbrella. J.P. King is projected to miss full accreditation by just 1 percent in English, a significant improvement from last year’s results in the 64th percentile. History and social sciences saw the greatest leap, from 67 percent to 95 percent, while history and social sciences (95) and science (79) also gained more than 20 percent each.

S.P. Morton saw equal improvement across the board, but will only be accredited in history and social sciences. In that subject, 94 percent of students passed, up from 85 percent one year ago. The pass rate in science more than doubled from 30 percent to 64 percent, while both English and mathematics rose from 38 percent to 65 and 69 percent, respectively.

Franklin School Superintendent Dr. Willie Bell did not return calls after multiple requests.

Southampton County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Alvera J. Parrish said that she faced a similar battle upon her arrival in Courtland three years ago. Three of Southampton six schools were accredited with warning for the 2012-2013 school year, but five schools will be fully accredited if the district’s projections are correct.

Capron Elementary will be the latest to join, but only pending the aforementioned adjustment from the department of education.

“I’m very excited and pleased with the successes of our students,” Parrish said. “With the rigors of the SOLs, our students have done very well. Our teachers have done a great job, and I’m pleased with the leadership in our schools.”

Some statistics that stand out within the district include an increase of 20 percent (from 76) in history and social sciences at Capron; 18 percent in mathematics (67) and history and social sciences (72) at Southampton Middle; 16 percent (from 60) in English at Meherrin; and 13 percent (from 83) in science at Nottoway.

The district’s lone school without full accreditation is Riverdale, which exceeded benchmarks in all subjects except English, in which, the school falls eight percentage points short of the benchmark.

“We’ve put together a plan to address it in the new school year,” Parrish said, noting that the school’s curriculum will be adjusted to focus on the area of need. “In spite of this, we did well in the other three areas … English just gave us the biggest challenge.”

The preliminary results also show that Windsor High, Georgie D. Tyler Middle and Carrsville Elementary schools will remain accredited as well. Students at all levels are passing at a clip greater than 80 percent in all subjects except elementary English (77) and science (78).

The most notable mark in this year’s SOL testing came in the same building, where 100 percent of students at Carrsville Elementary passed history and social sciences.

In response to comment about Isle of Wight County Public Schools performance, spokeswoman Kenita Bowers replied in a press release.

“Isle of Wight County Schools continues to make significant progress in student achievement on Standards of Learning (SOL) tests in reading, mathematics, history and science. The school division’s overall scores surpass the state in every content area.”

In math, reading, writing, science and history, she said that IWCS overall scores are, respectively: 85; 82; 80; 85; and 90. In comparison, state overall scores are, respectively: 79; 79; 77; 82; and 86.

Bowers also said that third-grade math students led the division with an 11-point gain over the state average, with eighth-grade science scores close behind posting a 10-point lead over the state.

Eighth-grade reading scores exceed the state average by seven points while scores for assessments in Virginia Studies and Civics and Economics exceed the state by eight points. Additionally, the school division increased overall pass rates in math by 13 points since the 2011-2012 school year, while maintaining a steady gain over the state each year in between.

“It’s wonderful to see the hard work of our teachers and students pay off,” said Division Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton. “As we continue to focus on professional development to increase rigor in our curriculum, integrate technology as a learning tool, and focus on interactive student engagement our SOL scores are sure to continue trending upward. The ultimate goal is to ensure that our students are fully prepared to be successful in the 21st century.”

According to Charles Pyle, director of communications for the Virginia Department of Education, final results from the Standards of Learning tests will be available later this fall.