SOL results are in

Published 9:19 pm Wednesday, August 27, 2014

After the state released standardized test results Wednesday with limited bright spots for Suffolk Public Schools, Deputy Superintendent Jacqueline Chavis says the district is in a similar position to others across Virginia.

“I don’t know that we are any different from other districts across the state,” Chavis responded. “We met and/or exceeded pass rates in some areas and continue to need to improve in others.”

In 2014 Standards of Learning assessments, Suffolk students made some gains in math but declined in reading.

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Improvements in math pass rates were almost across the board. End-of-course subjects saw significant increases — from 65 to 70 percent for Algebra I, from 45 to 64 percent for Algebra II and from 53 to 64 percent for geometry.

But they still lag behind statewide results even after the increases, including by 13 percentage points for geometry.

It was a different trend for younger students. Fifth-, sixth and eighth-grade math pass rates all rose and exceeded statewide results.

But third- and seventh-grade math dipped and fell short of statewide pass rates.

Math improvements across the state came after students took online math tests, introduced in 2012, for the third year. The tests require more critical-thinking skills and deeper knowledge with multi-step questions.

“The emphasis of the entire SOL program has shifted from minimum statewide expectations for competency to college and career readiness,” Board of Education President Christian N. Braunlich stated in a news release.

“The board knew that, with 132 school divisions and more than 1,850 schools, meeting these expectations would be a multiyear process as teachers, principals and other educators align curriculum and pedagogy to the higher standards.”

Suffolk officials agree with Braunlich, Chavis stated. “We will continue to analyze the data, and discuss the outcomes with principals and teachers,” she wrote.

“Building administrators and district staff have met and identified practices by building that proved effective and practices that may need tweaking or discontinuing. Principals began having those discussions with their teachers this week and will continue to have them throughout the year.”

Suffolk Public Schools’ reading scores declined in grades three through eight, including from 69 to 58 percent for third grade. Other declines were between one and six percentage points, and those results lagged statewide results, which, along with writing and science, were mostly flat.

Writing scores improved for students in the 11th and fifth grades, but eighth grade dipped one point to 55 percent, which was far below the 70 percent statewide.

History and social sciences were a mixed bag. For example, U.S. History I and Virginia and U.S. History improved, but Virginia Studies went from 86 down to 82 percent and World History II dropped four points to 84 percent.

Science also was a mixed bag. Biology and third- and eighth-grade science were down, but chemistry and fifth-grade science were up.

The state introduced new reading, writing and science tests reflecting increased rigor in 2013.

Chavis added that each grade level faces different challenges. “District curriculum guides are being revised to include additional resources for teachers,” she stated. “We will continue with the next phase of curriculum alignment, differentiate the supports and resources needed at each school based on data, and teacher and principal input.

“We will also continue providing meaningful and research based professional development for our teachers.”

After Superintendent Deran Whitney, based on preliminary results, predicted more schools will miss full accreditation with the results — six currently miss full accreditation — Chavis declined to elaborate based on the official results.

“Because the official results were just released this morning, we will need to review the results by school and be prepared to share a preliminary report with the board during its September meeting as we have in the past,” she wrote.