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IW, Surry see decline in SOL scores

Isle of Wight’s and Surry’s public school divisions each saw significant declines in their Standards of Learning test scores for the 2020-2021 school year.

The results, which the Virginia Department of Education released Thursday morning on its School Quality Profiles website, represent a first look at the learning loss students experienced due to the coronavirus pandemic. The state had canceled its 2019-2020 tests due to the early spread of COVID-19, making this past school year’s tests Virginia’s first in two years.

Division-wide in Isle of Wight County, 73% of students passed the reading SOL, down from 80% who had passed the test during the 2018-2019 school year when it was last administered. For the math SOL, 61% passed, a sharp drop from the 83% pass rate Isle of Wight had reported two years ago. In science, 67% passed, down from 83% two years ago.

In Surry, 66% of students passed the reading SOL, down from 78% during the 2018-2019 school year. Surry’s math scores dropped even more sharply than Isle of Wight’s, falling from 81% the last time the test was administered to 51% this past school year. Surry’s science scores also declined from 82% to 58%.

Writing and history test scores were not reported due to widespread use of local assessments in lieu of the traditional SOL for those subjects.

The declines were not unexpected, and followed standardized testing trends nationwide, according to a press release from VDOE Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane. The numbers, he said, reflect disruptions to instruction caused by the pandemic, decreased participation in state assessment programs, pandemic-related declines in public school enrollment, fewer retakes and more flexible “opt-out” provisions for parents concerned that in-school testing would further spread COVID-19.

“What matters now is where we go from here, and we will use the data from the SOLs to identify the unique needs of every learner as our schools resume in-person instruction for all students,” Lane said.

In a typical school year, participation in these federally-required tests is usually around 99%. This year, only 75.5% of students took the reading assessment, 78.7% took math and 80% took science statewide.

Two local schools, however, have bucked the trend, at least when it came to reading.

Surry County High School saw its reading scores increase from 89% in 2019 to 90% in 2021. Georgie D. Tyler Middle School in Windsor also saw its reading scores rise from 73% to 76%.

The results showed some widening racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps.

For the reading SOL, Isle of Wight’s 2021 pass rate was 23 percentage points lower for Black students than white students. The gap stood at 19 points as of 2019. In Surry, the pass rate was 10 points lower for Blacks — reflecting a 3-point widening of the racial disparity Surry saw in 2019.

Only 34% of students with disabilities passed the reading SOL in 2021, down from 45% in 2019. The 2021 data reflects a 39-point achievement gap compared to the division’s overall 73% pass rate.

For the math SOL, Isle of Wight’s 2021 pass rate was 29 points lower for Blacks than whites — reflecting an 11-point widening of the 18-point gap reported in 2019. In Surry, however, the racial disparity decreased from 11 points in 2019 to 8 points in 2021.

Isle of Wight further saw a 6-point increase in the percentage of students from economically disadvantaged households who did not score a passing grade on the math SOL. Surry, however, reported no statistical difference in the percentage of students from economically disadvantaged households who passed versus the division’s overall pass rate.

“The SOL test data from last year establishes a baseline that shows where students are in their learning and determines the plans necessary to help them recover and grow during the 2021-2022 school year,” said Isle of Wight Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton. “I want to emphasize that we should not be comparing these results to previous years, as the way our students attended school was untraditional, and ultimately impacted our SOL results.”

Surry Superintendent Dr. Serbrenia Sims was unable to be reached for a comment on the results by press deadline Tuesday.

The 2021 test scores will not impact any school’s accreditation status for the coming school year, as all schools will be listed as “accreditation waived.”