Keep up the good work

Published 8:44 pm Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Officials from Suffolk Public Schools were celebrating on Tuesday after the Virginia Department of Education released the results of the Standards of Learning assessments that were administered during the 2014-2015 school year.

Following the state’s lead, Suffolk improved in nearly every subject, by nearly every standard of measurement and among nearly every monitored category and sub-category of student. Bad news, unlike many years past, was negligible for Suffolk in the state’s report.

It seems that Suffolk students, much as their counterparts from around the commonwealth, benefited from changes to the rules of the tests. Last school year’s tests were the first during which students in grades three through eight were allowed to retake tests in reading, math, science and history.

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Statewide, the retakes added an average of four points per test, according to information provided by the Virginia Department of Education. Suffolk School Superintendent Deran Whitney believes the retests had a significant effect on the city’s final results.

“You have to be very careful about using one test on one day to judge students, schools or districts,” he said Tuesday. Students who fell just short received additional instruction in problem areas and then were able to retake the test quickly.

There’s a certain tendency by public school critics to draw attention to the rain behind every rainbow and the gray cloud surrounding every silver lining. It’s an understandable habit, as every SOL failure theoretically represents a student who hasn’t learned the minimum information the state deems necessary for his or her grade level.

We’ll flee from the temptation toward negativity this year, though, and offer, instead, a heartfelt and wholehearted congratulations for the progress Suffolk has made on its tests in the past couple of years. Keep up the good work.