By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
FREDERICKSBURG – Virginia students scored higher on math exams last year, after faltering on the new test two years ago, the state Department of Education announced Tuesday.
But English and science scores fell as students struggled with new exams in those subjects. And passage rates remained lackluster overall.
Statewide, 71 percent of students passed the math assessment for their grade level or course, compared with 68 percent during 2011-2012.
Students posted gains on all of the individual grade-level and end-of-course Standards of Learning math tests, with the biggest increases in grades 4, 6, 7 and Algebra II.
English and science were another story, as new tests were introduced in those subjects.
“As expected, pass rates were lower than in 2011-2012,” VDOE reported.
“The results of the new English and science tests begin new trend lines,” state Superintendent of Instruction Patricia Wright said in a statement.
Seventy-five percent of students passed the reading test for their grade level, and 76 percent passed in writing. The highest pass rates were on the reading and writing tests most high school students take in their junior year.
Students must pass these two tests to earn a Standard or Advanced Studies diploma. There is no limit on the number of times a student may take a test he or she needs to pass to earn a diploma.
Passage rates on the reading and writing exams tumbled 5-18 percentage points from the previous year. Science passage rates were 6-13 points lower.
“Raising standards is difficult, but well worth the effort,” Wright said of the “more rigorous” SOL exams.
SEE SUBJECT-BY-SUBJECT TEST RESULTS HERE
More than half of Virginia’s 132 school divisions saw increases on math exams, including end-of-course tests for Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II, which students must pass to earn diplomas.
More changes may be coming to the testing regimen, if Virginia’s gubernatorial candidates have their way.
Republican Ken Cuccinelli this month proposed revamping the 20-year-old SOL program, which he said is more geared to memorization than to problem solving.
Democrat Terry McAuliffe has made similar criticisms.
Cuccinelli said “an evolution” of the SOL tests would involve little additional expense, and that costs could be offset by paring administrative budgets.
Contact Kenric Ward at email@example.com or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward