Schools improve slightly

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Pass rates on state standardized tests in Suffolk Public Schools edged up in almost every subject area while falling only slightly in history, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Virginia Department of Education.

The division continues to fall short of the state average in every area, though, so additional strategies are needed to help students improve, Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney said.

The division-wide pass rate increased one point in reading and writing and two points in math and science. In history, it fell by three points.

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“We are pleased to see increased pass-rates for a large majority of areas tested,” Whitney stated in an emailed response to a request for comment. “While progress is clearly being made, we need to continue to aggressively strive for continuous improvement in all areas, at all schools, and for all students.”

Among the successes, Whitney cheered improvements at King’s Fork High School that likely mean the school will achieve full accreditation after missing it last year, the division’s only high school to have done so. It increased its math pass rate from 62 to 71 percent.

Other high points were Driver, Kilby Shores and Pioneer elementary schools and Forest Glen Middle School, which all showed improvement in every subject area. At Pioneer, a whopping 99 percent of all of the students passed the history assessment — the highest single-subject pass rate in the city.

“We attribute our success in improving in four of the five subjects to true collaboration among the School Administrative Office staff, building administrators and teachers, and to focusing on the alignment of the written, taught and tested curriculum,” Whitney stated. “Our teachers are very committed to providing students what they need. This commitment is seen through remediation, acceleration, tutoring and family involvement.”

“Suffolk Public Schools has better prepared students through a focus on the written, taught and tested curriculum, through year-round early intervention and focused teaching on areas of weaknesses, and through teaching students how to think,” Whitney added.

Whitney said each school is developing a performance plan to address school-specific improvement strategies based on the SOL results and other data.

“For the 2016-17 school year, we will commit to continued professional development and additional strategies to address specific needs, to promote higher level thinking, to focus on student engagement, and to provide students support for their unique needs,” Whitney stated.

Statewide results improved slightly or remained the same in every subject area.

This year, the math tests taken by most students in grades 3 and 6-8 were computer-adaptive assessments, according to a press release from the Virginia Department of Education.

Computer-adaptive SOL tests begin with a question or problem of moderate difficulty. If a student answers correctly, the computer selects a slightly more challenging problem as the next item. Conversely, an incorrect response results in the selection of a slightly less difficult item. Students’ scores are determined by the number of questions answered correctly and the relative difficulty of the correctly answered items.

The Virginia Department of Education stated in the press release that it expects to convert all math and reading tests in grades 3-8 to the computer-adaptive format by next school year.

2015-2016 SOL pass rates

Subject            Suffolk Public Schools            State

Reading                          75                                              80

Writing                           72                                              77

History                           81                                              86

Math                               77                                              80

Science                           80                                             83