The results are in, and some school districts are disappointed. Students in the Commonwealth did not score very well when it came to the Standard of Learning test for reading and writing.
But the Virginia Department of Education says they expected a lower pass rate, because the test is much harder now.
"We expected to see lower pass rates on these new tests," says Virginia Department of Education spokesperson Charles Pyle.
Classrooms took on new, more difficult tests for reading, writing and science that raised the bar for all students. The tougher standards were approved by the Board of Education in 2010 and were implemented for the first time this year.
"You have to view them in the context of a state education program that is shifting its focus from minimum grade level standards to a much higher goal: college and career readiness," says Pyle.
The numbers show a dramatic decrease. In Chesterfield, grade eight Reading went from 90 percent passing to 70 percent. In Henrico, grade four Reading dropped from 89 percent passing to 67 percent. In Hopewell, grade eight writing went from 75 percent passing to 49 percent. Petersburg schools saw the biggest drops. In fourth-grade reading, the passing rate went from 77 percent to 37 percent.
These results will hurt accreditation for a number of schools.
"A significant impact," says Pyle. "There will be quite a few schools next month when we announce that accountability ratings that will move from fully accredited to accredited with warning." That means the school will be under review and must submit improvement plans.
Right now school districts that saw a major decline are responding. Petersburg's new superintendent, Dr. Joseph Melvin, says he's implementing a number of changes:
1) Accountability measures are now in place. For the first time, teacher and principal evaluations are tied directly to student performance.
2) Measures have been implemented to ensure that highly qualified teachers are teaching in areas in which they are endorsed.
3) Expenditures are being examined to make certain that PCPS is not only spending its money wisely – but also getting what it's paying for.
4) Key vacant positions are filled.
5) Plans for a year-round education program at two Petersburg schools, Peabody Middle and A.P. Hill Elementary, are moving forward.
6) A three year strategic comprehensive plan has been developed. It includes an emphasis on teacher/professional development.
7) A SOL testing waiver, in science and social studies, for 3rd graders at A.P. Hill Elementary has been approved by the state department of education. Approval of the waiver allows for a laser focus on literacy and math.
Richmond also responded saying it will review every aspect of its instructional program to see what needs to be improved.
Henrico schools interim superintendent Dr. Patrick Kinlaw issued this statement, "Many of the results are encouraging because our pass rates increased in ten test areas compared to last year. However, we expect the increased rigor to have an impact on some scores. We are aggressively pursuing, as is the rest of the state, how to teach and prepare students so that they meet and exceed the rigor of the new test."
Math SOL scores did improve for most school districts. This follows last year's drop, after tougher math standards were implemented two years ago.
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