Williamsburg, James City and York students excel at SOLs

The Virginia Gazette

Williamsburg, James City County and York County students improved in all five subjects of the annual Standards of Learning tests, and outperformed the state in English, mathematics, science, history/social science and other subjects, according to test results released Tuesday by the Virginia Department of Education.

The improvement was part of a statewide trend, with Virginia students posting a five-point overall gain in reading and mathematics and two points each in writing, science and history. State officials credit increases to students being able to retake tests and to a revamping of the SOLs program. 

"Virginia teachers and students are adapting to the more rigorous standards implemented by the state Board of Education several years ago," Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples said. "The positive trend lines confirm that meeting these new standards is possible, although it will take time for schools to complete the adjustment."

The Standards of Learning or SOLs for Virginia Public Schools establish minimum guides for what students should know and be able to do at the end of each grade or course in English, mathematics, science, history/social science and other subjects. The statewide tests are administered annually during the last few months of the school year.

In the Williamsburg-James City County district, students improved in reading, from 79 to 84 this year. In writing, students scores also came up, from 81 to 84. History and social studies scores moved up a point from 87 to 88, while mathematics scores were up several points, from 81 to 85 and science scores crept up two points from 85 to 87.

"I would like to congratulate our students, teachers, school leaders, families and support staff for everything they did to help ensure that our students were successful," Steven M. Constantino, Ed.D., division superintendent said. "As the tests have become more rigorous and the challenges have become more complex, WJCC has risen to meet every obstacle thrown our way.

"This is quite an accomplishment," he said.

At the division level, students divided into state-determined sub-groups to determine how segments of a school's population fare on tests, exceeded or maintained last year's scores in 40 of 45 categories. The sub-groups include students with disabilities, those who are economically disadvantaged and those who speak English as a second language.

Limited-English-Proficient students made strides in English reading, math and science, and students in two other groups made gains in reading and math. "Improved student performance on these exams is a direct reflection of the intense focus and unwavering efforts of our students and staff," Constantino said.

"We did, however, see a slight dip in the division-wide pass rates of students with disabilities," Constantino said. "We are reviewing those results and will continue our efforts to enhance our instructional program."

York County schools experienced across-the-board gains in all subject matters tested in the SOL, especially in reading and math. Their teste results had overall reading at 88, writing at 84, history and social studies at 90, mathematics and science both at 89. 

Incoming YCSD Superintendent Victor Shandor said the gains in test scores are a testament to the district’s quest to shorten the county’s schools’ achievement gaps.

“We are proud of the school division’s results and the hard work of students and staff,” Shandor said in an emailed statement. “Our students don’t achieve this level of success without dedicated teachers, supportive families and focused instructional leaders.”

The two local district had high percentages, but nearby West Point had some of the state's highest pass rates, with reading at 94, up from 88, writing at 88, up from 87, history and social studies at 97, up from 94, mathematics at 95 up from 92 and science at 98, up from 94 last year. 

Neighboring Newport News schools didn't fare as well on tests, but did have increases in every subject over last year, with with reading at 68, up from 63, writing at 69, up from 63, history and social studies at 81, up from 77, mathematics at 71 up from 63 and science at 74, up from 67 last year.  

For more information including state, division and school-level results, visit http://www.doe.virginia.gov/statistics_reports/accreditation_federal_reports/index.shtml#passrates.

Daily Press reporter Jennifer L. Williams contributed to this report.

Reach Virginia Gazette Education Reporter Michele Canty at (757) 345-2341.

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