Test scores fall

Published 11:25 pm Thursday, July 14, 2011

Schools accredited despite SOL lapses

All of Suffolk’s public schools met state accreditation requirements, even though overall performance fell on tests in four core subjects, according to preliminary test results.

The division’s students showed improvements in just one subject, science.

Deputy superintendent Jacqueline Chavis presented Suffolk’s preliminary results from the state’s Standards of Learning tests to the School Board at its meeting Thursday.

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For the 2010-2011 school year, the division saw overall student performance in math, reading, writing and history fall compared to the previous year’s results.

The biggest declines were in math, where the percentage of students passing the test fell 10 points, from 92 percent to 82 percent, and history, which dropped from 85 percent to 78 percent.

Percentages of students who passed the history SOLs declined from last year’s results at all school levels, with elementary schools showing a 12-point decrease, to 75 percent, and high schools showing an even bigger drop, from 87 to 74.

Chavis said she is not sure what caused the drastic deterioration, but school officials will be evaluating what can be done to make improvements next year.

In reading, 84 percent of students passed SOLs, down 1 percent from the previous year. The percentage of students passing writing SOLs dropped from 91 last year to 87 this year.

The one bright spot in the preliminary results was science, which showed a 3-point gain in the percentage of students passing the test this year.

“We are really pleased with our improvement in science,” Chavis said, noting that the addition of several hands-on activities in science also helped the test scores.

She said school officials want to meet with teachers whose students are doing particularly well to learn and share with other schools their key to success.

In order to meet accreditation standards, elementary and middle schools must have a certain percentage of students pass the SOL tests in four core subjects.

High school accreditation is additionally based upon graduation and completion percentages.

Accreditation can be determined using the current year’s results or a three-year average of the results.

Three schools had to use the three-year average of their scores in certain subjects to gain accreditation — a provision known as “safe harbor.”

Robertson Elementary, John F. Kennedy Middle and Lakeland High schools used the safe harbor provision to bolster their history test scores to a point where they could meet accreditation standards.

Chavis said the school division will receive the final SOL test results in a couple of weeks and will present them at the School Board meeting Aug. 11.