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SOL scores released for Northumberland; inequities persist

Megan Schiffres

by Megan Schiffres

LOTTSBURG—Standards of Learning (SOL) scores for the 2017-18 academic school year were released by the Virginia Department of Education last week.

The SOLs are used to evaluate students’ abilities in reading, writing, mathematics, science and history and social studies. These tests establish minimum expectations for what students should know and be able to do at the end of each grade level.

Statewide, the 2017-18 SOLs did not represent a significant change in pass rates for students. The percentage of students who passed their reading SOLs fell by one percentage point, as did statewide pass rates for writing and science. Pass rates in mathematics, in addition to history and social sciences, dropped by two percentage points across Virginia.

In Northumberland County, science SOL pass rates for Northumberland Elementary School showed a significant improvement, from 81% in 2016-17 to 98% in 2017-18. However, no other subject at the elementary school improved their pass rates this year, with reading pass rates remaining steady at 82%, history and social science falling by 14%, from a 94% pass rate in 2016-17 to 80% in 2017-18, and mathematics pass rates falling by 3%, from 90% in 2016-17 to 87% in the 2017-18 school year.

Conversely, every subject tested by the SOLs at Northumberland Middle School improved the pass rates during the 2017-18 school year except history and social science, whose pass rate fell by 2%, from 76% in 2016-17 to 74%. Pass rates for reading at the middle school rose by 5%, from 75% in 2016-17 to 80% of students passing in 2017-18. Writing, mathematics and science SOL pass rates improved by 2% over the last academic year. Writing SOL pass rates went from 61% in 2016-17 to 63% in 2017-18, pass rates in math rose from 80% in 2016-17 to 82% in 2017-18, and science pass rates reached 71% in 2017-18, compared to 69% in 2016-17.

Mathematics was the only subject at Northumberland High School to improve in pass rates during the 2017-18 school year, from 64% in 2016-17 to 65% students passing last year.

“NHS experienced tremendous student achievement gains in the areas of algebra 1 and geometry. These gains are in large part due to changes to our master schedule, co-planning time built into the master schedule for teachers assigned algebra 1 and geometry, and an emphasis on aligning classroom instruction with VDOE math curriculum,” reported NHS principal Travis Burns. “We experienced an unexpected decrease in algebra 2 and have put in place plans to address this for 2018-2019.”

Pass rates at the high school for reading fell by 3%, from 84% in 2016-17 to 81% in 2017-18. In writing SOLs at NHS, pass rates fell by 12%, from 80% passing in 2016-17 to 68% passing in 2017-18. Rates also fell by 4% for science SOLs at the high school, from an 85% pass rate in 2016-17 to a 81% pass rate last year. Pass rates for high school history and social sciences remained steady at 76%.

Inequity in student achievement

and discipline at NCPS persists

by Megan Schiffres

African American students in Northumberland County Public Schools (NCPS) have not had an equal or higher pass rate than their white counterparts in any subject area of the SOLs for at least the past six years.

Using SOL test results released by the Virginia Department of Education earlier this month, analysis by the Rappahannock Record shows that the achievement gap between white and black students in the county, which has existed at least since 2012, persisted into the 2016-17 school year.

White students, who make up the majority demographic in the county, have consistently higher pass rates than black students in every tested subject area including math, science, English reading and English writing. Their pass rates are only occasionally surpassed by hispanic students, who make up a much smaller percentage of the student population, around 5-6%, than black students who compose about about 40% of the schools’ population.

While progress was made in closing the gap in achievement between white and black students in some subjects, including high school math and science SOL pass rates at the elementary school, the difference between pass rates for black and white students grew last year in other areas, such as elementary school history and pass rates in science at the middle school…

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