Tidewater-area school divisions are reflecting on their SOL scores after statewide results were released in August.
West Point remained at the top of its game with the highest scores in the region. New Kent, King William and King and Queen’s scores varied, some scoring higher than state averages.
West Point’s division-wide scores outranked state averages, with students scoring at or above 90 percent in almost all individual grade and subject areas.
Third graders in the division had passing rates of almost 100 percent in both math and reading. Meanwhile, eighth graders scored a passing rate of 100 percent on the reading test.
Although the division has the highest scores in the region, Superintendent Laura Abel said there’s still work to do.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Abel said. “We really want our kids to be successful and improve each year.”
When looking for areas to improve, division officials look at grades and subject areas where students scored less than 90 percent: fourth-grade reading, sixth-grade reading and math, seventh-grade math and Algebra II.
West Point Public Schools Director of Instruction Nate Leach said the division is developing plans to increase its scores in math and reading next year.
“With the math standards being fully implemented this year and tested, we will continue to ensure our curriculum is aligned and students are prepared not only for the SOL test, but also to develop their problem-solving, critical-thinking and future-ready skills.”
Leach said the division also wants to continue improving SOL results for students with disabilities.
“Many of our students have shown growth over the past two years, so we will continue to provide them the individual attention warranted for their success and more in-class support,” Leach said.
Division officials were surprised and pleased with third-grade scores, fourth-grade’s Virginia studies advanced pass rate of 63 percent, eighth-grade reading, algebra I score of 97 percent and biology pass rate of 97 percent, according to Leach.
King William’s scores beat state averages in science and history, but students scored lower in writing, reading and math.
Students across the division had trouble with the math SOL, with a fifth-grade pass rate of 66 percent, seventh-grade with 59 percent and eighth-grade with 63 percent.
Reading scores were also down across the division, with a pass rate of 64 percent in seventh grade and 69 percent in eighth grade.
Eighth-grade students also had a 60 percent pass rate in writing.
Students did well on the various science SOLs, with chemistry students earning a 93 percent pass rate and fifth grade earning an 87 percent pass rate.
Superintendent Dr. David White said the division will focus on math and reading.
In fifth grade specifically, White said the division changed its schedule at the elementary school to allow more small-group and individualized instruction.
“We are also using a teaming method for the teachers to allow for better partnership on curriculum,” White said.
In terms of middle school scores, the division implemented a new schedule last year and are looking to allow more time in math and reading, according to White.
“We will also have an educator in residence from the Math and Science Center who will work with teachers and develop engaging lessons for students,” White said.
White said the division was very pleased with the scores of its English-learning students.
“The state’s target area was 46 percent and we got 86 percent, which is amazing,” White said. “We are very purposeful on what we do and making sure we provide the resources for those students to be successful.”
White said the division will try to make lessons more engaging for students this year while working on the areas that need improvement and maintaining those areas of success.
New Kent’s division-wide scores beat state averages in four out of five categories.
Chemistry and geography students in the division had pass rates of 94 percent.
Superintendent Dr. David Myers said he believes those scores, as well as the division rates that scored higher than state averages, were based on instruction.
“We had high instruction in those areas,” Myers said. “We also had rigorous curriculum and are very pleased with those scores.”
Eighth and third graders didn’t fare as well in the math SOL; eighth graders has a 49 pass rate and third graders 76 percent.
In terms of eighth-grade math, Myers said it’s important to note fewer students take that test, as many eighth graders are enrolled in algebra and geometry.
“Our goal is to have 100 percent of eighth graders pass the SOL, regardless of which math they are taking,” Myers said.
New Kent Middle School will implement formal plans of intervention for individual students in the new year.
“We have interventions in place, but this will be more formal and help more students that are struggling,” Myers said. “In terms of eighth-grade math, teachers will be increasing the rigor along with tutoring and remediation.”
Myers said the division has identified the specific areas in third-grade math where the students did not do as well on the SOL.
“Our math specialist is working very closely with teachers to help them develop strategies and activities to ensure mastery of all content,” Myers said. “We are still very pleased with the overall progress of elementary math scores this past year, as New Kent had 6 percent growth, while George Watkins had 1 percent growth and the overall state saw a 2 percent drop in math.”
The division was surprised by a small drop in history scores, Myers said.
“It made a little more sense when we saw the statewide results in this subject area,” Myers said. “It is also important to note that the state said the social studies SOL was going away after 2017-18. In turn, teachers throughout the state began eagerly moving toward performance based assessments, as opposed to multiple choice SOLs.
“We learned in the last hour of budget negotiations at the state level that part of the budget deal included language that keeps the social studies SOL intact,” Myers said. “As a result, I am confident social studies teachers throughout the state will return their focus and class activities back to preparing students for the multiple choice SOL test.”
Myers said the division was pleased with the reading scores overall, as it was a focus last year.
“We have a new reading specialist position and teachers spent a lot of time examining their practice and looking at new ways to teach reading,” Myers said. “To have a 3 percent gain when the state dropped 1 percent is fantastic.”
King and Queen
King and Queen County School Division’s scores improved from last year’s, with improvements in four of the five categories.
The division brought up its overall writing score from 58 percent last year to 80 percent this year.
Superintendent Dr. Carol Carter said she knew the scores would improve, as they implemented writing in every subject across the division, but did not expect such a big improvement.
“We really focused on that this year in every grade and subject and I’m very pleased with the result,” Carter said.
Third graders across the division had passing scores of less than 70 percent in both reading and math. Math scores were also down in sixth, seventh and eighth grade, as well as for geometry students.
Carter said the division has already focused on math this summer through professional development skills.
“The math teachers across the division met for two days and did math curriculum guides with the 2016 revised standards,” Carter said. “We are putting more professional development emphasis on our math for the upcoming year to try to address some of the low scores we had this year in our math.”
Carter said scores might reflect some staffing issues at the middle school.
“We had staffing issues due to some staff medical concerns,” Carter said. “It’s hard to find a consistent substitute, so I believe that affected the student’s learning process.”
Algebra II students and fourth graders received high passing rates of 100 percent and 89 percent.
Carter said those subject and grades have experienced teachers who know what to focus on and help individuals prepare for the test.