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Even with gains, SOL results fall

Halifax County school students posted gains in 12 Standards of Learning test categories, but showed poorer performances than last year on 22 test assessments, according to 2012-13 SOL scores released Tuesday by the Virginia Department of Education.

Halifax County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon said she wasn’t surprised at the division’s performance.

At this time, three Halifax County Public Schools will fail to make annual measurable objectives in math including Scottsburg Elementary, Meadville Elementary and Halifax County Middle School, said Herndon.

“Next year we’ll try to get more experience on online testing. I’m not sure that giving them two days to complete the test online was a good idea,” the superintendent added.

Several new tests were given this spring, Herndon said, and the rigorous mathematics tests were given for the first time online.

The students are being asked to meet higher expectations on these challenging and innovative tests, she explained.

The online mathematics SOL tests include technology-enhanced items that mirror classroom instruction and assignments. The items require students to apply mathematical knowledge and critical-thinking skills in solving multistep problems.

Multiple-choice items on the tests also reflect the increased rigor of the mathematics standards adopted by the Board of Education in 2009.

The English and science SOL tests students took during 2012-13 were the first to reflect the increased rigor of revised standards adopted in these subject areas by the board in 2010.

Last year also marked the debut of online SOL writing tests, although all schools participated in a statewide field test of the assessments during 2011-12.

As expected, pass rates on the new tests were lower than in 2011-12.

According to the Virginia Department of Education, elementary and middle schools are fully accredited if students achieve pass rates of 75 percent or higher in English, 70 percent or higher in mathematics, 70 percent or higher in science and 70 percent or higher in history.

Halifax County Schools saw scores fall in reading and science, but overall they had increased scores in history.

Results show that Halifax County students in third grade dropped in English/reading from 81 to 73 this year and 86 to 85 in science but improved in history from 83 to 89 percent and improved in mathematics from 56 to 59 percent.

Grade 4 students showed a dramatic drop in English/reading from last year’s 90 percent dropping to 68 percent this year. County fourth graders also showed decreases in mathematics scores from 71 percent last year to 63 percent this year. 

Grade 5 students lost ground in English/reading dropping to 67 percent from the previous year’s score of 92 percent. Fifth graders also scored 68 percent in writing down from last year’s score of 89 percent. However, they improved in mathematics to 76 percent from last year’s 72 percent but decreased in science from 89 to 66 percent. 

Grade 6 students decreased from 75 percent to 62 percent in English/reading, but improved in mathematics from 60 to 65 percent. 

Grade 7 students’ scores dropped in English/reading from 79 percent to 66 percent and in mathematics from 42 to 20 percent. 

Grade 8 English/reading scores decreased from 82 to 54 percent; while writing scores dropped from 86 to 52 percent. The eighth graders’ scores in mathematics increased from 43 to 54 percent, but they saw a drop in science from 90 percent last year to 50 percent this spring.

End of course Algebra I results increased from 72 to 75 percent, and Algebra II students posted gains from 73 to 77 percent.

End of course geometry scores increased slightly from 68 to 69.

“I’m not surprised at the scores. I expected lower scores. It gives us an opportunity to see how we can change and to keep moving on,” Herndon concluded.

The VDOE said Tuesday that student achievement had improved on the challenging mathematics Standards of Learning tests that were first introduced two years ago. 

Statewide, 71 percent of students passed the mathematics assessment for their grade level course, compared with 68 percent during the 2011-2012 school year.  

 “Raising standards is difficult, but well worth the effort. We are asking students to meet higher expectations so that when they graduate, they will be ready for college and the work force,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright.