INVESTIGATION: RPS wasn't teaching for updated SOL

Published: Sep. 25, 2014 at 10:56 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 4, 2014 at 9:50 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - One reason Richmond students may not have done so well on SOL tests is the Richmond school system was teaching old information and preparing students for the wrong test.

The district has what's been called an alignment issue. When the state department of education revamped the SOL tests a few years ago, Richmond Public Schools did not update its curriculum. So, what the kids were learning each day does not match what they were being tested on.

SOL scores of Richmond students have dropped off a cliff. In some subjects the pass rates we've been telling you about dipped into the single digits. Parents were irate; students and teachers were discouraged.

School board member Kim Gray wasn't surprised.

"There is a level of frustration," she said. "I think our students would have done much better had they been given materials and information relative to what's being covered on the SOLs."

Current school officials wouldn't comment on why the curriculum was never updated. Those decisions were made under the former superintendent, who was ousted last year.

Three months ago, new superintendent Dr. Dana Bedden brought in the new director of curriculum and instruction, Terri Perkins, to address that very issue.

"I certainly share that concern," Perkins said.

We wanted to know what Perkins is doing to change the success rates of Richmond's students. She says it has been a very intense summer for RPS administration.

"You kind of have to get around the table and take a look at your written curriculum first," she explained.

They made immediate changes to that curriculum and in a new move, put it online so teachers can access it anywhere at any time. Last month, the district held workshops for those teachers.

"Lots of folks are working, again collaboratively, with the schools  to say 'OK, there's this written curriculum that the State of Virginia puts out and we enhance and kind of add to it with pacing guides and assessments and things,'" Perkins said.

As a parent of two, she says she understands the worry. She believes there is no longer an alignment issue between what is taught in the classroom and what will be on the SOL.

"We're teaching the state framework as school has started and that should help Richmond absolutely to see good improvements in those SOL pass rates this year," Perkins maintained.

Gray says this is an issue RPS will constantly revisit. They're making sure the information taught inside classrooms will not only carry students through standardized tests, but into a future of higher education and careers.

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