The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Tougher math SOL tests a challenge
BY PAMELA GOULD
AND LINDLEY ESTES
Across the Fredericksburg region and statewide, students struggled with tougher new math Standards of Learning tests given during the 2011–12 school year.
The percentage of students who passed the tests dropped for every division in the region. The statewide percentages also declined significantly.
However, 18 schools in the region had a 100 percent pass rate on at least one of the new math tests, joining a select group statewide to see that success.
The 18 schools included six middle schools in Stafford County, four in Spotsylvania County, two each in Orange and Culpeper counties, and one each in Fredericksburg and the counties of Caroline, King George and Louisa, test results released Tuesday by the Virginia Department of Education show.
Statewide, the pass rate for Algebra I dropped by 19 percentage points, for Algebra II by 22 points and for Geometry by 13 points.
But state Superintendent for Instruction Patricia I. Wright put a positive spin on the results.
“While we have a long climb before we reach the achievement levels we hope to see on the new mathematics tests, the results released today represent a good start and provide a solid foundation for further progress in 2012–2013,” Wright said in a prepared statement on Tuesday.
She also noted that students did better on year-end tests than they had on those given mid-year.
Year-end scores were 10 to 14 points higher on the Algebra I, Algebra II and Geometry tests, according to the state report.
The state’s Board of Education revised the math standards in 2009 in an attempt to better prepare students for college or entry-level jobs. The changes were implemented during the 2011–12 school year.
Among the Fredericksburg region’s 10 jurisdictions, the pass rate for the new year-end Algebra I test resulted in a drop of between 6 and 29 points over the previous year.
Louisa County saw the smallest percentage-point drop, whereas Colonial Beach and Fredericksburg recorded the biggest decline in pass rates.
Students in King George County recorded the second-lowest drop, at 13 points.
The pass rate for Spotsylvania County students fell 21 points for Algebra I.
Stafford school administrators said they are proud of the county students’ performance on the 2011–12 math tests but acknowledged that the new tests posed a challenge.
“Our scores are on par with the state,” said Kenya Wallach, supervisor of mathematics and science. “They’re above the state average. One thing we have done is really provide support for teachers. They can collaborate and share ideas through our professional learning community.”
One proactive step Stafford implemented last year was its summer Math and Science Institute, during which teachers in those subject areas share what they’ve learned from previous years’ SOL experiences.
Chris Quinn, Stafford’s assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said the division will also analyze data from the 2005–06 tests to review what transpired the last time the state put another change into place.
Quinn said the new SOL tests are less about recall and more about application, which is in line with 21st-century learning.
Stafford and Spotsylvania counties recorded identical 20-point drops in the pass rate for Algebra II.
Westmoreland County’s pass rate in Algebra II fell by more than half—from 91 percent for the 2010–11 school year to 45 percent for the latest school year.
Caroline County saw the smallest drop for Algebra II, with an 8-point decline.
Geometry scores did not fall as dramatically in the Fredericksburg region.
Declines ranged from 6 to 25 points, with Louisa scoring the smallest decline.
Westmoreland again had the steepest decline, with a 25-point drop in the pass rate.
Fredericksburg declined by 8 points on that test, Spotsylvania and Caroline by 9 points, Orange and King George by 14 points, and Stafford by 15 points.
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972