Students Continue to Improve in Reading, Math and Science on 2015-2016 SOLs
Richmond, Va. – The percentage of students achieving at the proficient or advanced level on Standards of Learning assessments in reading, mathematics and science increased by one-point statewide during 2015-2016, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) reported today.
Eighty percent of students achieved proficient or advanced scores in reading, and the same percentage passed tests in mathematics, compared with 79 percent in both subjects in 2014-2015. Eighty-three percent passed grade-level or end-of-course SOL tests in science, compared with 82 percent previously.
“A one-point improvement in mathematics means that approximately 11,500 more students met or exceeded the benchmark for proficiency for their grade or course,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples said. “In reading, a one-point increase equals approximately 8,000 students, and in science, more than 6,000. The success of these students – many of whom have struggled in the past – reflects great credit on our teachers, especially given Virginia’s rigorous standards and challenging online assessments.”
Larger gains were made by third graders, fifth graders and high school students on specific grade- and course-level tests, as follows:
- 77 percent of third graders earned proficient or advanced scores in mathematics, a three-point gain compared with achievement during 2014-2015;
- 82 percent of fifth-graders achieved proficient or advanced scores in reading, a two-point gain over 2014-2015; and
- 89 percent of high school students taking the Algebra II test achieved proficient or advanced scores, also a two-point gain.
Student achievement in English writing and history/social science was unchanged. In writing, 77 percent of students met or exceeded the standard for proficiency, the same percentage as in 2014-2015. Eighty-six percent achieved at the proficient or advanced level in history/social science, also the same percentage as previously.
The highest pass rates in English, mathematics and science were on the end-of-course tests high school students must pass to earn credit toward graduation, with results as follows:
- 89 percent passed the end-of-course reading test and 83 percent passed the high school writing assessment;
- 83 percent passed the Algebra I test, 80 percent passed the Geometry test and 89 percent passed the Algebra II test; and
- 84 percent passed the Earth Science test, 84 percent passed the Biology assessment and 88 percent passed the Chemistry test.
Of the commonwealth’s 1,822 public schools, 915 improved in mathematics, 904 in reading and 939 in science.
Noting the gaps that continue to separate the achievement of black and Hispanic students from that of white students, Board of Education President Billy K. Cannaday Jr. said that narrowing and ultimately closing these gaps will remain the state board’s top priority.
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“Under our current accreditation system, relatively high overall achievement in fully accredited schools can mask underperformance by certain groups of students,” Cannaday said. “The board is committed to implementing reforms that will shine a light on achievement gaps and hold all schools accountable for raising the achievement of students who historically have struggled to meet Virginia’s high expectations.”
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Virginia’s online SOL tests in English, mathematics and science require students to apply critical-thinking skills as well as their knowledge of grade-level or course content to solve multistep problems. The mathematics tests taken by most students in grades 3, and 6-8 in 2015-2016 were computer adaptive assessments.
Computer adaptive SOL 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.
Governor Terry McAuliffe and the state Board of Education have advocated the expansion of computer adaptive testing as a means of better measuring academic growth and improving the assessment experience of students. VDOE expects to convert all mathematics and reading SOL tests in grades 3-8 to the computer adaptive format by fall 2017.
VDOE will announce 2016-2017 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.
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