Superintendent clarifies SOL information

Madison White Franks

by Madison White Franks

KILMARNOCK—Lancaster superintendent Dr. Steve Parker on September 18 clarified information regarding standards of learning (SOL) test scores.

There are two different sets of accountability in SOL testing, federal and state, he informed school board members.

“We have two different sets of accountability. We have a federal accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and we have state accountability which is the Standards of Quality and Standards of Accreditation,” he said.

The numbers that appeared in the Rappahannock Record September 13 were the federal accountability numbers, said Dr. Parker.

The state accountability results will be released to the public September 27 although superintendents already have the numbers.

ESSA is a federal law that ensures every student achieves. Standards of Quality are requirements that must be met by all Virginia public schools and Standards of Accreditation are designed to ensure an effective educational program is established and maintained.

“Combined pass rates for state accountability are the number of students who pass, the number of students in math and English who showed growth from one band to the next…we have below basic, basic, proficient and advanced. Within below basic and basic, you have low and high. If a student moves from low below basic to high below basic, they show growth and we get credit for that growth in a combined rate,” he said.

So the state accountability combined rate includes growth and recovery, he added.

“If a student at the high school fails an algebra I SOL their freshman year and they get additional instruction and pass their sophomore year or later in their freshman year, we get credit for that twice in the numerator and denominator, that is called recovery,” he said.

The combined state accountability pass rate includes retests. Regarding transfers, students who transfer to Lancaster County schools at a certain time of the year, do not count against the school’s pass rate.

“If they pass the SOL test, they only count if they pass. If they don’t pass, it doesn’t count because we haven’t been responsible for their instruction,” he added. “Our out place students do not count.”

Parents may opt their students out of the exam and they do not count against us under the state rate, said Dr. Parker.

Substitute tests also count towards the school’s state pass rate.

“The state recognized that not all kids could pass reading and writing tests and math test the way it is done right now for end-of-course tests at the high school,” said Dr. Parker. “There is a belief that the test may be biased and it’s not fair to base a verified credit on a two-hour test when you have a 140-hour seat time.”

The Board of Education has identified substitute tests that could count as a replacement for the SOL tests to award verified credit. Students who pass the substitute tests count as a passing test for the school division for the state accountability but they are coded to make it count as a failure in the federal accountability, he said.

He gave the board a sneak peak into the state numbers to show how the numbers differentiate from the federal accountability to the state’s accountability.

“From the report that came out from the Virginia Department of Education for federal accountability, English: reading at the high school was 70% and writing was 64%, that’s 67% in English for all students. For state accountability for accreditation purposes, our combined pass rate was 89.95%, that’s a 23 point difference,” he said. “There is a huge discrepancy on what is reported for federal accountability and for state accountability.”

“We rely a great deal on our recovery, our retests and our growth because we have a lot of growth to do…accreditation is first, the rest of it will come. Our kids are still developing the efficacy, the belief that they can and the more growth that they show, the better they will be at passing the test the first time. My focus is on state accountability,” said Dr. Parker.

“All of our schools will be accredited, they will be accredited with conditions, but they will be accredited,” he added. “The schools are nowhere near where they need to be.”

“Is there any value to the federal government’s scores and are there any repercussions?” asked District 3 board member and chairman Audrey Thomasson.

Dr. Parker said there could be a possibility of losing Title I funding, which is part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that provides financial assistance to local educational agencies and schools with high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure all children meet academic standards.

“We won’t lose Title I funding because the state will not allow us to lose it,” he said.   

“The bottom line is we have a long way to go and we know it. The schools have worked really hard and have done a good job,” said Thomasson. “When the paper came out with these federal preliminary numbers, it sent shockwaves throughout the community.”

“We are still celebrating in our school because all of our scores, according to state accreditation, are up. It is the first time since 2013 that we have been like that. We are still happy,” said middle school principal Jessica Davis. “The main message, our kids need to know that they are doing well and improving and our teachers need to know that they have made changes that are causing our kids to grow more and learn.”

Parker will present state SOL results to the school board at the October 9 regular meeting.

School principals reported on great starts for the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. Enrollment in the county’s three schools totaled 1,153 students.