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ACPS Makes Little Progress, but Stays the Course on SOL Scores

The school division, like other divisions across the state, fell deeply in math as was expected due to new, more rigorous assessments.

Virginia’s Department of Education released the results of the state Standards of Learning tests and Alexandria City Public Schools did not perform strongly although showed some consistency and a few areas of progress.

ACPS Superintendent Morton Sherman said that last year the division committed to making reading a focus area for the 2011-12 school year to stop the downward trend in SOL reading scores from the previous three years.

That strategy paid off on some levels. There were some bright spots in English reading scores, with fourth-graders overall edging up to a pass rate of 81 percent over last year’s 79 percent. However, seventh-graders fell in English reading from 83 percent to 79 percent.

“Out of the seven grade levels tested in reading, grades three, four and six improved and grade eight maintained last year’s achievement level,” he said, adding “we still have work to do; however we are pleased to see progress.”

History and social sciences scores remained fairly consistent from the 2010-2011 school year to 2011-2012 and third grade even edged up from a 74 percent pass rate to 76 percent.

Statewide, results in English, science and history/social science remained relatively stable as well.

Alexandria's mathematics scores overall fell dramatically as they did statewide with new, more stringent state math assessments.

Alexandria’s exception to that was sixth-grade mathematics, which moved up from 54 percent to 61 percent.

Third grade fell from a 88 percent pass rate to 57 percent, for example, while eighth-graders fell from a 62 percent to a low 22 percent pass rate.

Speaking of the state as a whole, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia Wright said: “While we have a long climb before we reach the achievement levels we hope to see on the new mathematics tests, the results released... represent a good start and provide a solid foundation for further progress in 2012-2013.”

An ACPS statement said the division will focus on professional development for teachers with support in the area of math concepts and that it plans to examine best practices where ACPS teachers and schools are meeting benchmarks.

Science tests also showed some consistency with third-graders nudging up to 81 percent from 80 percent, but fifth-graders fell to 73 percent from 80 percent.

and William Ramsay performed well and were cited by Sherman as “examples of schools making a huge difference under challenging circumstances.” They made gains across all levels in reading and both schools have the highest percentage of students eligible for free and reduced price lunch in the division.

Edmund Lewis August 16, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Changes to the math SOL tests can account for a change in overall math SOL scores, however it can not account for a drop across all subject areas in the district. According to an Alexandria Times article, ACPS student SOL scores decreased in science, social studies, reading, writing, and math. Even with the significant decreases in math scores State-wide, Alexandria City Public Schools still fall on average 9 percentage points below the State average. Why are we paying the Superintendent over $250,000 to produce failing results? November must bring new leadership.
Resident 22301 August 17, 2012 at 05:18 PM
The conclusions drawn in this story don't appear to be consistent with the data available from the Virginia Department of Education. The file at the following link has individual spreadsheets for State, Division and School levels and is worth examining at the School level. http://www.doe.virginia.gov/news/news_releases/2012/aug14.xlsx It's important to keep in mind that SOL's are a minimum. To 'pass', a student needs to score 400 on a 600 point scale. For example, to pass the 3rd grade reading test a student needs to answer 23 or 35 questions correctly. From the VA DOE website: "Standards of Learning assessments in English reading, mathematics, science and history/social science are made up of 35-50 items or questions that measure content knowledge, scientific and mathematical processes, reasoning and critical thinking skills. English writing skills are measured with a two-part assessment that includes multiple-choice items and an essay. Student performance is graded on a scale of 0-600 with 400 representing the minimum level of acceptable proficiency and 500 representing advanced proficiency. On English reading and mathematics tests, the Board of Education has defined three levels of student achievement: basic, proficient, and advanced, with basic describing progress towards proficiency." A listing of all the minimum scores ("cut scores") can be found at: http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/scoring/cut_scores.pdf
Sharon McLoone (Editor) August 17, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Hi Resident 22301. Thanks for your comments. I reviewed the data on a division level. I have not yet examined it on a school-by-school level. What is your assessment of the data?
Nisa Harper August 18, 2012 at 11:45 AM
Since Cora Kelly and William Ramsey performed well, and made gains then 1.study and duplicate those two schools 2.financially invest in outreach and engagement to increase the PTA participation and I'm sure the other schools in ACPS will also see an improvement.
Resident 22301 August 18, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Sharon - I agree with your assessment at a division level. ACPS did make little progress. Of the 33 scores listed in the division table, there are year-to-year increases or same scores in 13. There were declines in 20. Eight of those 20 declines were math subjects. Twelve were non-math subjects. Of the 13 that increased or remained the same: 6th grade math went from 54 to 61 percent, 4 increased by 2 percentage points, 5 increased by 1 percentage point and 3 remained unchanged. ACPS is staying the course - trying to improve student achievement in spite the challenges it faces - which is the role of professional educators. The public should draw their own conclusions about the school level scores. My reading of the tables leaves me very concerned. Some examples: T C Williams: 6 of the 9 non-math tests scores declined George Washington Middle Schools: 10 of the 16 non-math scores declined Samuel Tucker: 7 of the 8 non-math scores declined James K Polk: 7 of the 8 non-math scores declined Charles Barrett: 6 of the 8 non-math scores declined George Mason: 6 of the 8 non-math scores declined
Carl Branch August 19, 2012 at 04:16 AM
This is complete insanity. Do you not realize that the drop in scores is directly attributable to the self-promoting, unctuous eunuch, Mort Sherman? At my daughter's school, none of the children in the 'mainstream' classroom could demonstrate mastery of the four basic mathematical functions. Only 4% passed the math SOL. Reading became an exercise in boredom and robotic instruction with the introduction of Success for All...a program introduced by the corporation's former CFO and current assistant ACPS Superintendent, Gwen Carol Holmes. But let's keep hiring image consultants and local whacko journalists like Carla Branch to give us the straight story. After twelve years of having had children in the system, I never thought I'd see ACPS sink so low. Where is the outrage?
Carl Branch August 19, 2012 at 04:17 AM
This is complete insanity. Do you not realize that the drop in scores is directly attributable to the self-promoting, unctuous eunuch, Mort Sherman? At my daughter's school, none of the children in the 'mainstream' classroom could demonstrate mastery of the four basic mathematical functions. Only 4% passed the math SOL. Reading became an exercise in boredom and robotic instruction with the introduction of Success for All...a program introduced by the corporation's former CFO and current assistant ACPS Superintendent, Gwen Carol Holmes. But let's keep hiring image consultants and local whacko journalists like Carla Branch to give us the straight story. After twelve years of having had children in the system, I never thought I'd see ACPS sink so low. Where is the outrage?
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