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A mixed bag for Loudoun as SOL results roll in

Loudoun County has received mixed results from this past school year's SOL tests, with students' scores increasing or staying the same in 18 different tests, but decreasing in 16 others.

However, the decrease was not unanticipated.

With the Virginia Board of Education unveiling more rigorous science, reading and writing tests, similar to the harder math tests that were introduced last year, both local and state education leaders were prepared for a slight decrease in test scores.

“The results of the new English and science tests begin new trend lines,” Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia Wright said in a press release. “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 largest Loudoun drop came in fourth grade reading, where the passing rate fell from 90 percent to 78 percent. State passing rates for the same test fell from 88 percent to 70 percent.

Locally, other tests such as biology and chemistry saw a modest 3 percent decrease in passing rates, compared to the state decrease of 9 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

Sharon Ackerman, assistant superintendent for instruction for Loudoun County Public Schools, noted that while scores did go down for some of Loudoun's students, the decrease was not as dramatic as in other school districts.

“We contained our losses better,” Ackerman said. “It tends to happen when you make the tests more rigorous. Schools will adjust.”

While last year saw a decrease in math scores when a new, harder test was introduced, students in both Loudoun and the state overall improved this year. The state and Loudoun County saw increases in the percent of students passing the SOL from the 2011-2012 school year to the 2012-2013 school year.

Although all math scores in Loudoun increased, a blemish still came in the eighth grade math test, where the percentage of students passing went from 33 percent in 2011-2012 to 39 percent in 2012-2013. The state average is 61 percent passing and no other Loudoun test has passing rates below 77 percent.

Ackerman noted that a small portion of students even take math 8 in Loudoun County – most are at more advanced mathematical levels.

"The thing to remember is the tests are called grade 8, grade 7 but 80 percent of our eighth graders are in algebra one or higher,” Ackerman said. “Their pass rates are in the algebra one or geometry pass rate, not the math 8.”

Ackerman added that many of the students in math 8 are English Language Learners or Special Education students – two groups that tend to not test as well.

Still, she said LCPS is working to improve the scores.

“We are already at work planning for a real audit of those eighth grade classrooms to see how we can support the teachers there,” Ackerman said. “We need to see what else we can do to support them. There's no reason it should be as low as 39 percent.”

Fairfax, Fauquier and Prince William counties have math 8 pass rates of 78, 68 and 75 percent, respectively.

The SOL scores will be used to help determine the state accreditation and accountability reports, as well as updated school and division report cards. The reports will all be issued next month.

In the press release on the Virginia DOE website, Wright warns parents not to worry too much about the reports.

“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 stated. "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 post-secondary education and the realities of global competition."


Actually, there are the “advanced” 7th graders who also take the Math 8 SOL. It seems to me that Ackerman is trying to cover up the fact that there really are a lot of students failing the test compared to other districts. It seems about right tho, as I remember my LCPS middle school math teachers being extremely incompetent.

Are you implying that the “American Indians” invited Europeans here?
Also, please google “Native American Definition”

@orange, think you miss the point. 80% of 8th graders in Loudoun are taking a higher math class so they’re not tested for Math 8. Only 20% of the 8th graders take the math 8 SOL.
These tests are worthless and big waste of taxpayers money. Most 8th graders are taking 9th or 10th grade math. How do you compare that to the rest of Virginia?

@ JamesFranco “Your forefathers were illegal once too. Just ask any Native American.”

No. they weren’t.  And why are you deliberately misusing the term “Native American” when referring to American Indians?  Anyone who is born and raised in the United States of America is a “native American.”

If the other school systems use the same metrics and their grades are higher then Loudoun’s then I guess we have a strong indication why Ms. Ackerman is resigning. It ain’t the kids like it was last year. If they have ESL students and Special Ed students in Fairfax, Arlington and Prince William why is it that our percentage is the only one 11 percentage points below the most liberal grade F?

Loco…the pith of your analysis suggests you came along before education was mandatory.

@ LoCo
Your forefathers were illegal once too. Just ask any Native American.

What that means is our standards are being dragged down by illegals. That’s the donkey in the room nobody wants to talk about.  I say Donkey not Elephant because it is the Democrats that want to open the floodgates of illegals so they have more and more folks dependeant on government who will vote Democrat

FTA:  “Ackerman added that many of the students in math 8 are English Language Learners or Special Education students – two groups that tend to not test as well.”

That should be instructive.

The harder the test, the better the student.

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