The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer
English reading and writing SOL scores for Franklin County students plummeted this year, compared to last year's scores, according to results reported by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) last week.
Though students in Franklin County scored higher than the state average on the 2012-13 English SOLs, their scores from 2011-12 were far better than their scores from this past year.
"English and Science SOLs were all new this year with accompanying new SOL assessments, which were designed to be more rigorous," said Keith Pennington, director of curriculum and instruction for Franklin County schools.
According to the report from the VDOE, Franklin County students reflected a pass rate at or above the state average for all reading and writing tests given, with the exception of the high school writing test, which most students take in their junior year. High School students must pass the reading and writing tests to earn a Standard or Advanced Studies diploma; however, there is no limit on the number of times a student may take a test to pass and earn a diploma.
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 Virginia Board of Education 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.
"The results of the new English and science tests begin new trend lines," said Patricia Wright, state superintendent of public instruction. "Students are now being challenged by the standards to achieve new levels of mastery at each grade level and to apply what they have learned on assessments that are very different from the traditional multiple-choice tests people often associate with the SOL program."
The state superintendent predicted that reading and writing achievement will increase as schools align curriculum and instruction with the new standards.
"Strengthening early reading and adolescent literacy will impact learning in all areas." Wright said.
As is the case with the English SOL tests, science test results for Franklin County students were also lower this year, due to the introduction of the more difficult and rigorous tests.
Though Franklin County had a lower pass rate for the 2012-13 school year, they still scored at or above the state passing rate on each of the six science tests.
High school students are required to pass at least one of the end-of-course science tests (biology, chemistry and earth science) in order to receive a standard diploma, and at least two for an advanced studies diploma.
Results from the mathematics SOL tests from the 2012-13 school year show that Franklin County students performed above the state average on all but three of the tests.
Seventh-grade math students were one point away from the state average of 61 percent passing, and algebra I students performed three percentage points short of the state average.
The most difficult math subject for students proved to be geometry, with Franklin County students earning a 71 percent passing rate, compared to 76 percent for the state as a whole.
"The math SOL assessment, in our opinion, was more rigorous this year than last," said Pennington. "We have a couple target areas that we have worked on this summer, which include both English and math."
The results showed an overall improvement of Franklin County students on the more rigorous math tests, which were first introduced two years ago.
Compared to the previous year, Virginia students improved in 2012-13 by three percentage points. Statewide, 71 percent of students passed the mathematics assessment for their grade level or course, compared with 68 percent during 2011-2012.
Students posted gains on all of the individual grade-level and end-of-course mathematics SOL tests, with the biggest increases in grades 4, 6, 7 and algebra II.
"I am so proud of the thousands of teachers in school divisions across this diverse state whose focus on critical thinking and problem solving -- as well as mathematics content knowledge -- prepared students to increase their achievement on these rigorous assessments," Wright said. "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."
The online math SOL tests taken by most Virginia students 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 test results for Franklin County and Virginia were consistent," said Pennington. "We dipped where the state dipped. Our beginning score bands were very high so even with dips, we still outperformed the state averages."
High School students are required to pass the algebra I, algebra II and geometry tests in order to receive a diploma.
Scores for tests in history/social science were similar to the previous year for Franklin County, with students scoring at or above state average on all but two of the nine tests.
The percentage of Franklin County students passing Virginia and U.S. History was 84, with the state percentage at 86.
The percentage of Franklin County students passing world history I was 83, with the state average at 84.
The Board of Education's adoption of revised history/social science standards in 2008 and the introduction of more rigorous history/social science tests in 2010-11 marked the beginning of the change of focus of the SOL program from minimum grade-level standards to college and career readiness.
Statewide, achievement increased by one point on two of the four end-of-course tests (Virginia and U.S. history, geography, world history I and world history II) high school students take to earn verified credits for graduation.
"We spend a lot of time reviewing results, averages and state performance, but our main focus is what goes on for each child in each school and classroom," said Pennington. "We try to use the results to drive quality instruction, improve student performance and insure all students show growth. We are proud of our accomplishments, but we also realize we still have work to do. We work diligently to insure all students achieve. We will always have room for growth and will continue to work in an effort to help each student achieve."
The VDOE will issue state accreditation and federal accountability reports next month, along with updated school and division report cards.
"Even with three-year averaging mitigating the impact of the new tests, we will see some schools slip from Fully Accredited to Accredited with Warning," Wright predicted. "I hope parents will view these accreditation changes in the context of the state raising standards so that their children -- regardless of where they live -- will be better prepared for the challenges of postsecondary education and the realities of global competition."
"The improved performance of students on these challenging and innovative tests shows that we are moving in the right direction," Board of Education President David M. Foster said. "The higher pass rates achieved by students in many rural, urban and suburban divisions suggest that the state board has not put the bar out of reach. I believe we would be selling our students short if we were to retreat by weakening the SOL program."