alexandrianews.org Editorial

The State of Virginia released 2017-18 SOL scores for Virginia’s public schools a few weeks ago. While Alexandria’s scores stayed roughly the same under interim superintendent Dr. Lois Berlin, there were some significant variations that bear watching. In reading about the scores you may be interested to know that in the Alexandria public schools 27.4% of the students are white, 31.0% are black, 36.3% are Hispanic, 5.0% are Asian with the remaining .3% Native American.    

The biggest gain was in writing where scores were up four points system wide over 2016-17. Even this good news was marked by a small decline in the scores of white students and a somewhat larger three-point decline among Asians. Black students scored the same as last year. The increase was driven largely by an eight-point gain in scores of Hispanics along with lesser gains by economically disadvantaged, English learners and students with disabilities. Most student groups are above where they were 2015-16  except for whites who were down two points and Asians who were down ten points.

On the other hand, math scores declined substantially divisionwide. They were down five points for all students over 2016-17 and seven points over 2015-2016. Only white students maintained their scores of a 2016-17. All other groups saw lower scores and many suffered double digit losses compared with 2016-17 and 2015-16. Scores for reading, science and history were relatively unchanged from 2016-17 both system wide and for most groups.

A comparative analysis of the scores over the past four years from an academic source shows that there has been little progress in closing the gaps between the top scoring white students and other groups. Black students have made the most progress with significant strides in history and writing. Hispanic students made significant progress in writing last year.

Our new Superintendent, Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Jr., is coming into a system that has made some progress, but which has still failed to achieve a breakout. Except for white scores and some black scores, Alexandria’s results continue to be below the state average. Hispanics, which constitute the largest group in the schools, have actually lost ground in three of the five tests over the past three years. Other smaller sub groups are in even worse shape.

He will have to reshape education here to reach out to these students and improve their ability to succeed. While doing this he must maintain the programs and activities that have improved learning for black students and maintained it for whites. This is not an easy task.

Superintendent Hutchings also must understand what happened to the students’ performance in mathematics. The drops were much too consistent across the student groups to assume that it was just a fluke. Mathematics is a key to securing many of today’s well-paying jobs and Alexandria can not be complacent and expect the problem to cure itself.

We have believed that the school system was poised for its breakout for the past few years. It is up to Dr. Hutchings and his staff to make it happen.