LETTER: Franklin Schools test scores

Published 8:26 am Thursday, December 7, 2023

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To the Editor:

The Nov. 29 edition of The Tidewater News contained a front page article entitled “Q1 review reveals low FCPS student pass rates.” The article was written by staff writer Titus Mohler as a result of his coverage of the Nov. 9 meeting of the Franklin School Board. This testing was a complex topic, and I applaud his accurate portrayal of the test scores and comments presented at that meeting.

A reader of that article may come away with the thought that Franklin students are not learning and teachers are not teaching. The truth of the matter is quite the opposite. The perceptive differences relate to two primary factors — new test makers and higher “cut scores.”

The scores on Virginia’s Standards of Learning (SOL) tests are critical because they are key to school accreditation. The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) does not give school divisions the actual test questions, rather it provides topics to be covered so that schools cannot actually “teach to the test.” Franklin schools conduct three “benchmark tests” after the first quarter, half, and three quarters of the academic year to assess student progress toward the SOL tests taken at year end. In the past, teachers prepared most benchmark tests. This academic year, in order to increase academic rigor, central office staff prepared the benchmark tests using pacing guidelines provided by VDOE. A second modification to past benchmark testing was that the “cut score” (passing score) was set higher.

The next benchmark scores for the first semester will occur near the end of January. By then we are confident these assessment issues will have been addressed and the benchmark test scores will be a more accurate portrayal of the teaching and learning successes happening everyday.

Robert N. Holt, Chair

Franklin City School Board