Data review: Franklin High School sees several gains, two declines

Published 11:00 am Thursday, March 7, 2024

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Editor’s note: Franklin City Public Schools administrators presented a Quarter 2/Semester 1 student performance data review for the 2023-24 school year to the Franklin City School Board on Thursday, Feb. 29. This is the first in a three-part series covering the review, school-by-school.

Franklin High School Principal Travis Felts presented Semester 1 preliminary SOL results to the Franklin City School Board on Thursday, Feb. 29, highlighting positive gains in most areas, acknowledging declines in English and math, but expressing optimism for improvement there by year’s end.

“Right now, if you just look straight at the numbers, we’re declining in English and math, but I’m happy with where we are because I know we’re going to get those growth points and those retakes and those recovery points and we’re going to end up just fine, especially with English and even with math,” he said. “And I’m proud of the growth especially with history. Science, we’ve definitely got some work to do, but hopefully we’ve got a full science department now.”

Felts started his presentation by noting, “We’re dealing with SOL results at the high school already because we’ve finished one semester, and we’re into Semester 2.”

He began with English, which included some eighth grade data since eighth grade is now housed at the high school.

S1 English – FHS Preliminary SOL Results

2022-23 English/Writing SOL – 70% Pass Rate

Grade 8 English – 50%

Grade 8 Writing – 23%

Grade 11 English – 52%

Grade 11 Writing – 69%

2023-24 English/Writing SOL – 52% Pass Rate

“Let me put a little context on these English numbers — where you see ‘Grade 8 English,’ that is the reading SOL, and that does not include any growth yet,” Felts said. “Growth will be added to that percentage once we know what the state is calling ‘growth’ this year.”

Felts responded Wednesday, March 6, to an inquiry from The Tidewater News on what he was referencing in the above quote regarding growth being added.


He provided an explanation from the Virginia Department of Education on how growth is determined for accreditation purposes for English and math within a certain range of grades. The explanation is as follows:

Determining Growth on SOL Tests

“For a grade 4-8 student to demonstrate growth for accountability purposes, the student must have failed the previous year’s SOL test (2022-2023) and the current year’s SOL test (2023-2024), and then advanced at least one range on the progress table. 

“Here are the steps for determining growth: 

“1. Determine the students who failed both the previous year and current year SOL tests, based on the overall test scaled scores. (Both tests must have a scaled score below 400.) 

“2. Next, for only those students, compare the vertical scaled score range from 2022-2023 SOL test to the vertical scaled score range from the 2023-2024 SOL test on the appropriate progress table.  

“3. If the student has advanced at least one range from 2022-2023 to 2023-2024, then the student is considered to have made growth for accountability purposes.”

Felts said, “Since eighth grade is at FHS, we get growth added into our pass rate once the state sets the range for growth for 2023-2024. We have not received this information yet.”

At the Feb. 29 meeting, Felts said, “Right now, what I did was I brought last year’s scores to kind of compare things to. Right now, we’ve 19 out of 38 (students) that passed the English 8 reading SOL, so of course that’s 50%. Just to keep things in context, last year we ended with Grade 8 Reading (at) a pass rate of 74%, so that’s a 24% difference, however the growth isn’t in that (50%) number yet, so keep that in mind because that’ll be included by the time we get to the end of the year.”

He said that for 2022-23, only four out of 54 students passed eighth grade writing, so that was a 7% pass rate.

Shifting his focus to this year’s current Grade 8 Writing pass rate, he said, “I know 23% is nowhere near where we want to be, but it’s a lot better than 7%. So we had seven students pass first semester out of 30, but Grade 8 Writing is definitely one of our areas of challenge. Hate to call it a weak area, but it’s an area of growth that we are working hard at with the help of Ms. (Sha-Keya) Barnes, our eighth grade teacher, and the different tutors that we’ve had in there, because we’ve been through several, and Ms. (Maureen) Mahoney is working hard with that group.

“I’m optimistic that that’s going to be a lot better than last year,” Felts continued. “It already is, but it’s going to be a lot better than last year once we get to the end of the year, especially when we put in the growth with the reading test.”

He said that the pass rate for Grade 11 English at the end of last school year was 91%.

“I know 52% is nowhere near 91%, but you’ve got to keep in mind that with Grade 11 Reading, which is the Grade 11 English, we have retakes in the spring, which all those students who pass will replace a failing score, and some of them will be recovery and count twice,” he said. “Also next week we’re doing the WorkKeys test, which is a substitute test that will do nothing but bring those scores up. 

“So what I’m trying to say is that 52% is the floor,” he continued. “Everything else is going to increase from there because of the retakes, because of the recovery points, because of WorkKeys, and also our advanced English students are in the second semester classes, so usually their scores come out a little bit better.

Felts said that for 2022-23, Grade 11 Writing ended up with a 93% pass rate.

“Right now we’re at 69%, but my experience tells me we’re going to be fine with especially Grade 11 Reading and Writing because of all the different opportunities that students have to retake and the remediation and tutoring programs that we have in place and the experienced teacher that we have in the classroom that has a history of success,” he said. “We’re going to still be in the high 80s, low 90s at the end of the day with grade 11. Last year, the final numbers for English were 72%. Our goal this year is at least 75%, and I believe we’ll be up in the 80s.”

He emphasized that the Semester 1 data does not include any growth or retakes, but he noted that the writing data does include some WorkKeys substitute scores.

“We’re going to be fine with English,” he said. “However what I’ve done is put a down arrow or an up arrow in every category that goes into our accreditation, and right now I’m counting English as a down arrow because it’s not where we were last year at the end of the year. But just keep things in context and remember all the different rules that go into play that can only bring us up at the end.”

Then he moved on to math.

S1 Math – FHS Preliminary SOL Results

2022-23 Math SOL – 79% Pass Rate

Algebra I – 68%

Algebra II – 64%

Geometry – 33%

2023-24 Math SOL – 65% Pass Rate

“Math is also a down arrow right now, but again, I’m confident that we’re going to be fine, because we have a strong math department, and we have a plan for the retakes, and we have our Friday academies going, and we have our after-school tutoring going, and the math team works well together,” Felts said. “The Algebra II teacher does a lot of remediation with the Algebra I students that haven’t passed that yet, and the retakes are getting ready to happen and the recovery points are getting ready to happen.”

Felts said that last school year, FHS had an 80% pass rate for Algebra I by the end. The rate for right now is at 68%.

He indicated that last school year, 74% passed Algebra II by the end. The rate right now is at 64%.

“Last year we had 71% pass Geometry; this year we’re at 33%, but that’s a very low number of students that even take Geometry, because by design, we try to get most of them to pass their math SOL with Algebra I, and then Algebra II’s next,” Felts said. “So not many of our students even take the Geometry SOL, but of course, we want to do better than 33%.”

He said that right now, math is at a 65% pass rate; it was at 76% at the end of last school year.

Next, Felts addressed student performance in science.

S1 Science FHS – Preliminary SOL Results

2022-23 Science SOL – 36% Pass Rate

Science 8 – 31%

Biology – 55%

Chemistry – 0%

2023-24 Science SOL – 48% Pass Rate

“Alright so now let’s get to the really positive news, I feel like, and you’ve got to dig into the data before you really call it positive, but if you compare to last year, Grade 8 Science we finished at 26%,” Felts said. “With a brand new teacher, who unfortunately is no longer with us, but with a brand new teacher and a challenging fourth block, I’m actually happy with that (current pass rate of) 31%, because I was fearful it was going to be 0%. But we did have some students pass that Grade 8 Science SOL first semester, and most of our eighth graders are taking science second semester.”

He said there was only one block of eighth grade science during the first semester.

“Biology, last year we finished at 40%,” he said. “We had 23 out of 57 students pass biology last year. We’ve already had 26 students pass this year, and we’re only halfway through, so that’s an increase of 40% to 55%. Of course, we have a lot of students taking biology this semester.”

Addressing the current 0% pass rate for chemistry, Felts noted that very few students take chemistry, and of the four who took it, none passed.

“So right now, science is up from 32% to 48% — that’s growth, but we’re working hard to get that up even higher,” he said. “You can make accreditation by decreasing your failure rate by 10%. We don’t want to make it that way, we want to make it by getting the 70% pass rate, but I definitely feel like we can get that 10% reduction in failure rate if nothing else because last year we were at 32%.”

Finally, Felts addressed history.

S1 History FHS – Preliminary SOL Results

2022 23 History SOL – 32% Pass Rate

US History I – 67%

World History I – 73%

Grade 8 Civics – 41%

2023-24 History SOL – 62% Pass Rate

“Civics, last year we ended up at 36%,” he said. “Right now we’re at 41%. Last year we had 24 students out of 66 that passed the civics test.”

This year there have already been 16 to pass it, he said.

“I’m very proud of the students’ resilience because they truly haven’t had a teacher,” he said. “The teacher has been out on (Family and Medical Leave Act), and the history department has kind of rallied around, and each teacher has taken a block, and a lot of the work has been done (online) on Canvas, so that 41%, we can work with that, because hopefully our teacher is returning on Monday, and we’ll have a solid teacher for civics and economics, which is the eighth graders.”

Ward 3 Board Member LaChanda E. Parker later asked Felts, “For eighth grade, with the teacher coming back, just from the history from what you’ve seen, what do you see for the second semester with the civics?”

She indicated she was asking this because most of the scores for history come from civics and world history.

Felts replied, “We’ve got some work to do with that teacher and with that subject, but it’s going to be better than what we piecemealed together for first semester, when we had a different substitute in there some days, and some days we had a history teacher taking the class during their planning (period). There just was no consistency, so if nothing else we’re going to have consistency, I hope, because she’s scheduled to be back Monday.”

FCPS Director of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Krystal Thompkins later added her word of commendation for the Grade 8 Civics class this school year.

“Even with the 41% for civics and economics, knowing what that class has gone through, that’s phenomenal, and so I’m really proud of that,” she said.

Felts added, “If nothing else, our eighth graders are resilient, so when you hear civics and economics and you hear Grade 8 Science, that’s the eighth graders, and they just haven’t had a lot of consistency this year.”

Following Grade 8 Civics, Felts next addressed World History I during his presentation.

“I’m going to stop right there for a minute because last year, 37% passed World History I,” he said. “Only 42 students passed the test. We’ve already had 56 out of 77 pass, so I’m definitely going to call out Mr. Jonathan Smith’s name and Ms. Cheyanne Banks, because they’re the two teachers that taught World History I, and they have been grinding out the retest students, the students that are in the class now. 

“We do a lot of work with making sure (that) what they’re teaching is aligned to the standards,” Felts continued. “We’ve partnered with a teacher in Isle of Wight County who has had a lot of success with World History I. And I’m very proud of Mr. Smith and Ms. Banks and everybody who has helped them with the history department. I definitely think they need to be recognized.”

Felts noted that in 2022-23, there was an 18% pass rate for U.S. History at FHS.

“Right now we’re 67%, but to be totally honest, that’s only two out of three students,” he said. “Most of our scores come from World History I and civics. 

“So that gives the 62% pass rate (for history), which is up from 32% last year, so I definitely had that as an arrow up,” he said.

He urged board members not to forget the other indicators for accreditation at the high school, including chronic absenteeism. 

“We’re definitely making a (positive) growth there,” he said. “Graduation rate and dropout rate, we’re historically strong with that, and we should continue to be, and (College, Career and Civic Readiness Index) CCCRI, which is a combination of a lot of data that comes into play with our students who are dual enrollment students, and our CTE scores and our work-based learning partnerships, that’s going to definitely be an increase this year.

“So I feel like we’re going up in six out of the eight areas,” he continued. “Of course, you don’t want two of those eight to be English and math, because those are big ones, but it’s going to all work out, especially for English. As long as we’ve got Diane Dovell in English 11, somehow she works her magic, and it’s going to be fine. And Ms. Barnes and the rest of them are great teachers, and we continue to work with them. Very proud of our growth in history, and science we’re growing as well.

“It’s a work in progress,” he said in conclusion.

In a Tuesday, March 5, interview, Ward 1 Board Member and Board Chair Robert Holt shared some of his thoughts on the high school data presented, noting that board members are trying to dig deeper to gain a greater understanding of how things stand there.

“The high school has always been our strength, and due to some teacher shortages and some challenges with certain subjects, it’s been tougher this year, the last year,” he said. “I would just say that we have some work to do at the high school.”

As for specific subjects, he noted that the geometry pass rate was low and acknowledged that not many students take it, and it is hard to find someone to teach it.

“We’re watching the science scores,” he said, but he said the board was pleased with the history scores. “The kids are doing really well on history.”