Suffolk high schools fail math SOLs

Published 10:16 pm Thursday, August 9, 2012

Lakeland High School is set to join King’s Fork High in receiving less than full accreditation after only 39 percent of Suffolk high school students met the Standards of Learning in math, according to preliminary results presented to the School Board Thursday.

The math result is a steep decrease from the 76-percent pass rate in 2010-2011. High school standards fell almost across the board, to 86 percent from 89 percent in reading, 67 percent from 74 percent in history, and 81 percent from 88 percent in science. Writing increased slightly from 91 percent to 93 percent.

“Our math in high school is not where we expect or want it to be,” district Supervisor of Testing and Research Steve Edwards said.

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“However, there is a plan in place to address how we will be getting those scores to revert back” to higher levels of previous years.

The poor math result is blamed to a large degree on new online testing standards requiring students to demonstrate greater critical-thinking and problem solving skills.

District Deputy Superintendent Jacqueline Chavis outlined an attack plan to raise the math bar, much of which is already under way.

Student performance will be analyzed question-by-question to pinpoint particular areas of deficiency; greater focus will be placed on skills required by the computer-based test; and questions in pre-assessments will be modeled on those in the SOL test.

Increased pressure will be placed on math teachers to lift results. They will receive a “needs assessment,” the results of which will inform professional development sessions.

Evidence that teachers are correcting areas of weakness will also see increased monitoring, Chavis said.

“We will be asking them what educational resources … will you need this school year to raise assessments and be successful,” she said.

“We’re going to work with principals to make sure that monitoring is happening with teachers.”

School Board member Diane Foster asked Chavis whether, with the new assessment, math results had declined across the state.

“We will know when official results are finalized,” Chavis responded.

“Talking to other districts, everybody’s been keeping it pretty close. Everybody’s saying it was more difficult (than anticipated) and we have a lot of work to do to get scores back up to where they need to be.”

There were brighter spots in the results. All elementary and middle schools should receive full accreditation, Edwards said.

Elementary students raised the bar on the previous school year in reading, writing and history — three of the five subject areas.

This pattern was not repeated in middle school, however, where the science result of 94 percent equaled the previous year, but all other subjects declined.

High school accreditation results will be finalized when final SOL results are in and summer school results determine final graduation rates.

Based on the draft SOL results, King’s Fork and Lakeland high schools are likely to be accredited with warning in math, requiring academic reviews and school improvement plans.