By Carla Branch and Katie Smythe
alexandrianews.org

Student achievement on Standards of Learning tests during 2016-2017 was relatively unchanged statewide compared with performance during the previous school year, although black students made gains on five of the six elementary and middle school reading tests, the Virginia Department of Education reported today. Alexandria student pass rates remained generally lower than state averages with Hispanic students and students with disabilities showing poorest performances.

In Alexandria, T. C. Williams High School remained generally steady across history and science but dropped slightly in reading and math. The pass rate for reading was 69%, while math was 54%. History remained steady at 74%. Writing and science fell slightly to 71% and 69%, respectively. T. C. Williams is undergoing a reorganization of the administrative structure and focus this year under Peter Balas, the newly appointed principal

“While these results are consistent with recent years, we will assess what is required to accelerate our growth.” said ACPS Interim Superintendent Dr. Lois F. Berlin. “We will look at what we have been doing right and how we can replicate those practices across the school division in the coming year.”

This fall, ACPS will increase customization and personalization of student learning following a detailed school-by-school analysis of the data. The ACPS Department of Curriculum and Instruction will expand content academies for teachers to highlight best educational practices for diverse populations and increase the use of strategies that involve students in active learning. They will work with school staff to strengthen professional learning through teacher collaboration, as well as coaching and mentoring to enhance student motivation for learning. Schools that are particularly successful in certain areas will work collaboratively to share their knowledge and best educational practices.

SOL Results

“Students continue to perform at substantially higher levels on the commonwealth’s rigorous assessments in mathematics, English and science than when these tests were first introduced in 2012 and 2013,” Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples said. “This long-term, upward trend is far more important than a snapshot for a single year and reflects the hard work of thousands of teachers, principals and other educators and their dedication to helping students meet high expectations.”

2016-2017 ACPS Subject Area Pass Rates by Student Subgroup

Overall, 80% of Virginia students achieved proficient or advanced scores in reading, and 79% passed tests in mathematics, compared with 80% in both subjects in 2015-2016. Alexandria City Public Schools students had a pass rate of 71% in reading compared to 73% last year, and 66% in mathematics compared to 68% last year. Across Virginia, 82% passed grade-level or end-of-course SOL tests in science, compared with 83% previously. In Alexandria, 68% of students passed in science compared to 69% last year. 

Student achievement in English writing improved by two points statewide, with 79% passing compared with 77% during 2015-2016. ACPS students had a 69% pass rate in 2016-2017 compared to 68% last year. Overall achievement in history/social science was unchanged across the state, with 86% of students passing SOL tests in the subject. ACPS students had a 76% pass rate in history/social science compared to 77% last year. See table for the ACPS subject-area pass rates by student subgroup.

Some of the highest pass rates in English, mathematics, science and history/social science statewide were on the end-of-course tests high school students must pass to earn credit toward graduation. The ACPS high school students had lower pass rates. The results follow:

  • 87% of all Virginia students passed the end-of-course reading test and 84% passed the high school writing assessment. The pass rate in reading for Alexandria’s high school students declined 11 points from 79% last year to 68% in 2016-2017. In writing, ACPS high school students had a pass rate of 71% this year, down from 74% last year.
  • 82% of all Virginia students passed the Algebra I test, 78% passed the Geometry test and 90% passed the Algebra II test. Alexandria students had a pass rate of 64% for the Algebra I test (up from 63% last year), only 49% passed the Geometry test (down from 60% the previous year) and 70% passed the Algebra II test (down from 75% last year).
  • 82% of all Virginia students passed the Earth Science and Biology assessments and 89% passed the Chemistry test. Alexandria students had a pass rate of 63% in Earth Science (down from 66% last year), a 64% pass rate in Biology (down from 70% last year) and a pass rate of 87% in the Chemistry test (a five-point improvement from 82% last year).
  • 83% of all Virginia students passed in Geography, 85% in World History I, 87% in World History II and 86% in Virginia and U.S. History. Alexandria students had a pass rate of 72% in World History I (down from 77% last year), 75% in World History II (up from 70% last year) and 73% in Virginia and U.S. History (up from 70% last year). 

Fourth graders, sixth graders and eighth graders statewide all improved in reading, as follows:

  • 79% of fourth graders achieved proficient or advanced scores in reading, a two-point improvement compared with 2015-2016;
  • 78% of sixth graders earned proficient or advanced scores in reading, a one-point gain compared with 2015-2016; and
  • 76% of eighth graders achieved proficient or advanced scores in reading, a one-point gain compared with 2015-16.

In Alexandria, reading pass rates for fourth, sixth and eighth graders stayed relatively the same: fourth graders achieved a 72% pass rate for the past two years; sixth graders earned 67%, a one-point decline from last year; and eighth graders achieved a 69% pass rate compared to 68% in 2015-2016.

Of the 1,805 open public schools with reportable test results, 680 improved in mathematics, 800 in reading and 411 improved in both subjects.

Black students achieved a one-point gain in overall reading achievement, with 67% passing statewide. In Alexandria, black students achieved a reading pass rate of 66% this year compared to 67% last year. Larger gains were made by black students statewide on five specific grade-level SOL reading tests as follows:

  • 67% of black fourth graders passed in reading, a three-point gain;
  • 71% of black fifth graders passed in reading, a four-point improvement;
  • 63% of black sixth graders passed in reading, a two-point gain;
  • 69% of black seventh graders passed in reading, a one-point gain; and
  • 59% of black eighth graders passed in reading, a two-point improvement.

While overall black student achievement in math dropped one point to 66% statewide, the performance of black students on the both grade-6 and grade-8 math tests improved by one point, to 70% and 60%, respectively. In Alexandria, overall math achievement for black students was 60% this year compared to 61% last year.

Overall achievement of Hispanic students in reading was unchanged statewide, with 71% passing, but the performance of Hispanic students did improve in three grades, as follows:

  • 70% of Hispanic fourth graders passed in reading, a three-point gain;
  • 73% passed the fifth-grade reading test, a one-point improvement; and
  • 69% of Hispanic students passed the sixth-grade reading test, a two-point gain.

In Alexandria, the Hispanic student pass rate in reading declined three points from 61% last year to 58% in 2016-2017.

Overall Hispanic performance in mathematics also dropped one point to 71% but Hispanic students did achieve a one-point gain in Algebra I with 75% passing the SOL test for the course. In Alexandria, the Hispanic student pass rate in math declined three points from 55% last year to 52% in 2016-2017.

The statewide SOL results by subject area follow. See table for the ACPS subject-area pass rates by student subgroup.

Statewide SOL Results by Subject Area

English Reading

2014-2015

2015-2016

2016-2017

All Students

79

80

80

Asian

90

91

91

Black

65

66

67

Economically Disadvantaged

66

66

67

English Learners

61

61

64

Hispanic

71

71

71

Students with Disabilities

45

46

47

White

86

86

86

 

English Writing

2014-2015

2015-2016

2016-2017

All Students

77

77

79

Asian

90

90

92

Black

63

63

65

Economically Disadvantaged

63

63

64

English Learners

50

47

52

Hispanic

70

70

70

Students with Disabilities

40

40

42

White

83

83

85

 

Mathematics

2014-2015

2015-2016

2016-2017

All Students

79

80

79

Asian

93

93

93

Black

67

67

66

Economically Disadvantaged

68

69

68

English Learners

67

66

68

Hispanic

73

72

71

Students with Disabilities

48

49

48

White

85

86

86

 

Science

2014-2015

2015-2016

2016-2017

All Students

82

83

82

Asian

92

93

92

Black

68

70

68

Economically Disadvantaged

69

70

69

English Learners

56

57

58

Hispanic

71

72

71

Students with Disabilities

51

53

52

White

89

90

89

 

History/Social Science

2014-2015

2015-2016

2016-2017

All Students

86

86

86

Asian

95

95

95

Black

76

74

75

Economically Disadvantaged

76

75

75

English Learners

69

69

72

Hispanic

79

80

80

Students with Disabilities

60

60

59

White

91

91

91

 

The 2016-2017 school year was the third of a four-year phase-in of computer adaptive testing — a format that allows for shorter tests — in grades 3-8. This spring, all math tests in grades 3-8 were computer adaptive (with the exceptions of end-of-course algebra and geometry tests), and adaptive reading tests were introduced in grades 3-5. The conversion will be complete with the introduction of adaptive reading tests in grades 6-8 during the 2017-2018 school year.

Adaptive tests begin with a question or problem of moderate difficulty. If a student answers the item correctly, the computer selects a slightly more challenging problem as the next item. Conversely, an incorrect response results in the selection of a slightly less difficult item. Students’ scores are determined by the number of questions answered correctly and the relative difficulty of the correctly answered items.

The adaptive reading tests that third and fourth graders took this spring had 33 items, 14 fewer than the 47-item tests students took in 2015-2016. The adaptive fifth-grade reading SOL introduced this year also had 33 items, 17 fewer than the non-adaptive version students took during 2015-2016.

Also new this year were 39-item adaptive math tests in grades 4-5, which replaced 60-item math SOLs fourth and fifth graders took last year. 

Computer-adaptive SOL testing was first introduced during 2014-2015, with the debut of an adaptive version of the sixth-grade math test. Computer-adaptive versions of the grade-3, grade-7 and grade-8 math tests were introduced in 2015-2016.

Additional information on the performance of students on SOL tests during 2016-2017 is available on the VDOE website and on the online School Quality Profiles for schools and divisions.

VDOE will announce 2017-2018 state accreditation ratings in mid-September. Accreditation ratings may reflect achievement over three years and include adjustments to reward schools for successful interventions and allowances for certain transfer students and English learners.

2016-2017 Statewide Test-by-Test Results (All Students)

Subject

Test

2014-2015

2015-2016

2016-2017

English: Reading

Grade-3 Reading

75

76

75

 

Grade-4 Reading

77

77

79

 

Grade-5 Reading

79

81

81

 

Grade-6 Reading

76

77

78

 

Grade-7 Reading

81

82

82

 

Grade-8 Reading

75

75

76

 

End-of-Course Reading

89

89

87

English: Writing

Grade-8 Writing

72

71

73

 

End-of-Course Writing

83

83

84

History/Social Science

VA Studies

87

87

87

 

Civics & Economics

86

87

87

 

Geography

86

86

83

 

World History I

85

84

85

 

World History II

87

86

87

 

VA & US History

87

86

86

Mathematics

Grade-3 Mathematics

74

77

75

 

Grade-4 Mathematics

84

83

81

 

Grade-5 Mathematics

79

79

79

 

Grade-6 Mathematics

83

82

82

 

Grade-7 Mathematics

72

72

71

 

Grade-8 Mathematics

74

73

74

 

Algebra I

82

83

82

 

Algebra II

87

89

90

 

Geometry

80

80

78

Science

Grade-5 Science

79

81

79

 

Grade-8 Science

78

79

79

 

Earth Science

83

84

82

 

Biology

84

84

82

 

Chemistry

88

88

89

 

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