Loudoun County public school students saw another year of modest gains on state-mandated math, reading, history and science exams taken earlier this year, as shown in results released by the Virginia Department of Education on Tuesday.
The Standards of Learning pass rate among Loudoun students improved or stayed level in 27 of 33 grade-level tests, and the school system’s scores exceeded state average pass rates in reading, writing, math and science.
Some of the most notable gains were made by Loudoun’s students with disabilities, who saw improvements across the board in English (60 percent passed), math (59 percent), writing (54 percent), history (74 percent) and science (68 percent).
Students considered English Language Learners continued to make progress in English, a stated goal of Loudoun school leaders in recent years. Those students tallied a pass rate of 64 percent in English, up just one point over last year but a big improvement over the 51 percent pass rate during the 2013-14 school year.
Nereida Gonzalez-Sales, director of high school education, said the gains among ELL students is attributable to a relatively new teaching model where ELL teachers and general education teachers spend more time co-teaching. That’s meant ELL students that were once pulled out of their general education classrooms now spend more time with their English-speaking peers.
“There is more collaboration between our ELL and general education teachers,” which means more conversations about best teaching practices,” she said.
Of the overall scores for ELL students, Gonzalez-Sales said, “We’re pleased with the progress but we’re not yet satisfied. We want to keep focusing on that.”
Another area on which Loudoun school leaders have focused their efforts on is eighth grade math, which saw another year of improvements. Three percent more eighth-graders passed math than the previous school year, and 11 percent more passed than the 2013-14 school year. This year’s 64 percent pass rate is still 9 points behind the state average.
This is the third year Loudoun’s Standards of Learning scores have seen modest gains since the state math tests were made more rigorous in 2011, requiring more students to demonstrate critical thinking skills and the ability to solve multi-step problems.
At the state level, Virginia students on average improved pass rates by one point in reading, math and science. The state reported average pass rates of 80 in reading (compared to Loudoun schools’), 77 in writing (Loudoun: 87), 80 in math (Loudoun: 86), and 83 in science (Loudoun: 89).
“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.”
VDOE will announce the 2016-2017 state accreditation ratings in mid-September.