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Area math SOL numbers better

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Most school systems in the Fredericksburg area improved scores on math Standards of Learning tests last school year—reflecting the trend statewide, according to preliminary results released Wednesday.

But the percentage of students passing the tests in Colonial Beach and Caroline and Westmoreland counties fell short of the state’s pass rates in every subject. The largest gap was in Colonial Beach, where pass rates in English and math are nearly 20 percentage points lower than the statewide rates for the 2013–14 school year, according to the Virginia Department of Education.

Meanwhile, Stafford County was the only local school division to exceed statewide pass rates in all subjects—reading, writing, history, math and science.

Ironically, Stafford’s scores dropped slightly from the 2012–13 school year in every subject but math. Eighty percent of students passed the math tests, up one percentage point from the previous school year.

Statewide, the math pass rate jumped three points, from 71 to 74 percent, marking the second straight year of improvement since educators introduced tougher math tests in 2011.

“The gains students made show that—despite all of the weather-related interruptions last winter—the statewide focus on teaching students to be problem solvers and to apply what they have learned in mathematics in real-life situations is producing results,” Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples said in a statement.

The state’s pass rates in reading, writing, history and science all dropped by one point.

Locally, pass rates in English, history and science stayed relatively flat, either dropping or increasing by a small amount.

The exception was in the town of Colonial Beach, where 58 percent of students passed the writing test—a 17-point drop from 2012–13. The town’s math pass rate of 56 percent was the same as the previous school year, but 18 points less than the state’s.

Kevin Newman, who became Colonial Beach’s school superintendent at the beginning of the month, could not be reached for comment. Colonial Beach is the smallest school system in the Fredericksburg area, with just 570 students, according to the division’s website.

Westmoreland schools improved pass rates in most subjects, including a seven-point increase in math. Still, the division is between five and 10 points below statewide pass rates in every subject.

Caroline increased its writing pass rate from 65 to 66 percent, but that’s still nine points shy of the state’s rate. The county’s math pass rate stayed flat at 67 percent, or seven points below the statewide rate.

Rebecca Broaddus, Caroline’s assistant superintendent, said the division is working hard to improve scores. She said the school system is reviewing teaching strategies and is focused on providing mentoring and other support for new teachers.

The city of Fredericksburg’s math pass rate jumped six points, from 66 to 72 percent. And the city saw one-point gains in writing and science pass rates.

Still, statewide pass rates exceed the city’s in every subject but writing. Seventy-five percent of city students passed the writing SOL, mirroring the statewide rate.

King George County’s pass rates are better or equal to the state’s in every subject but math. The county’s math pass rate stayed at 71 percent, or three points below the state’s.

Spotsylvania County’s pass rates dropped slightly in writing and history, and stayed the same in reading and science. Seventy-three percent of Spotsylvania students passed the math test, up two points from the previous school year.

Spotsylvania Superintendent Scott Baker said in a statement that the majority of Spotsylvania’s schools improved scores in math and reading. “Recent test results reflect that SCPS, like many other school divisions across the state, continue to align and adjust to the more rigorous SOL tests implemented over the past few years,” he said in an email.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402

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