Loudoun Students Make Modest Progress on SOL Exams

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.

See Loudoun County Public Schools’ complete results here.

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.



One thought on “Loudoun Students Make Modest Progress on SOL Exams

  • 2016-08-17 at 11:01 pm

    Overall, I would agree that very slight progress was made from FY15 to FY16. Note that passing rates are not the be-all-end-all for SOLs. We’ve heard that SOLs make teachers focus on students at risk of failing the SOL cut line of 400. That is only true when teachers/principals/supt’s/board members are evaluated on passing rates. If you look at average SOL scores, advanced proficiency rates, and yes growth data like SGPs then every student’s growth counts. When districts or newspapers only report “passing rates” district wide without separating out FRL students or looking at avg scores or even breaking data down by grades, they are not giving the public the whole picture. You can do your own analysis with VDOE’s website.

    I have pulled data for the state, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William in this spreadsheet. I chose to compare apples to apples by looking at non-FRL, non-ESL, non-SpEd students by grade. This is the general education population that forms the core of our students. You can also analyze each subgroup but it makes no sense to analyze FFX’s entire population’s pass rate when they have 2x the % of FRL students. It includes both FY15 and FY16 data since in FY15, the retest policy skews the numbers before FY15.

    I colored in LCPS’ scores based on how they compared to FFX. The darker the orange/red the lower LCPS performed. The darker the green, the better LCPS performed vis-a-vis Fairfax. You see a lot more red than green meaning FFX still consistently outperforms Loudoun across all areas.

    One particular area to note is math in 5th and 6th grade. Here are the results:

    – in 5th grade math, we outperform across the board in avg SOL, advanced rate and pass rate.
    – in 6th grade math, we drastically underperform across the board
    – while both Virginia and FFX drop off between 5th and 6th grade math, Loudoun falls off a cliff on advanced rate and avg score. The 40-pt drop in SOL scores and only 2%/9% scoring advanced in 6th grade is horrendous.

    Maybe we should completely overhaul our entire 6th grade math teachers. And given that 6th grade is so important to the follow-on classes, we cannot ignore that. The real question is there ANY LCSB member who even looks at this data. Or are they too busy giving raises to the Supt to continue promoting their board to care. This is the type of analysis our administrators should be doing. But clearly they are not. They focused on 8th grade math because the pass rate made headlines. But their explanation about the 8th grade numbers being skewed because of who takes the class was correct. Instead of discovering that 6th grade math is the real problem, they focused on an area that is more about publicity than importance. That is typical of this board.

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