Loudoun County’s public school students’ pass rates dipped slightly on state-mandated math, reading, history and science exams, as shown in results released by the Virginia Department of Education on Wednesday.
This is the first year Loudoun’s Standards of Learning scores have taken a modest hit after seeing three straight years of gains from 2013 to 2016 followed by a leveling off in 2017. Still, Loudoun public school students’ overall pass rates met or exceeded the state pass rate for 27 of the 28 tests administered this past spring.
Loudoun saw the biggest slump in mathematics, where 83 percent of students passed, down two points from last year. Reading, history and social sciences, and science fell by just one point to 86 percent, 91 percent, and 88 percent, respectively. The pass rate in writing stayed level at 90 percent.
The one testing area Loudoun County lags behind the state in is eighth grade math. The county’s achievement on that test decreased from 64 percent in 2015-16 to 62 percent in 2017-18. That column has been a bit of a black eye on Loudoun’s report card for years, but school system leaders have explained that it is in part because high-achieving eighth-graders take the Algebra exam, instead of their grade-level math exam.
The school system seemed to have lost a bit of the traction it gained last year among its English Language Learner students. They showed improvements in every area on the SOLs during the 2016-2017 academic year. This year, they continued making progress in writing—from 56 to 57 percent—but they lost ground in reading (from 66 to 62 percent), history and social sciences (from 70 to 67 percent), math (from 68 to 62 percent) and science (from 60 to 56 percent.)
Pass rates among students with disabilities fell—although ever so slightly—in every subject area. Reading and writing each fell one point to 59 percent and 57 percent, respectively. Math slipped four points to 55 percent; history and social sciences fell three points to 71 percent; and science dipped three points to 64 percent.
In recent years, school leaders have allocated more resources to ELL and special education programs. Two years ago, they rolled out a new teaching model that encourages ELL teachers and general education teachers to spend more time co-teaching. That’s meant ELL students who were once pulled out of their general education classrooms now spend more time with their English-speaking peers.
Loudoun’s SOL results show mixed results for its economically disadvantaged students. Math took the biggest hit, from 68 percent last year to 62 percent this year. Their pass rate for science dipped four points to 56 percent, reading also fell four points to 62 percent, and history and social sciences slipped three points to 67 percent. Writing was the bright spot for this group, with a one point improvement to 57 percent of students passing.
The slight slump in Loudoun County’s pass rates mirrors the trend across the state. Overall pass rates for Virginia students slipped one to two points in every area. Those pass rates are 79 percent in reading, 78 percent in writing, 77 percent in math, 81 percent in science, and 84 percent in history and social sciences.
Virginia’s Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said in a prepared statement that the standards have become more challenging in recent years and, overall, Virginia students are performing at a much higher level than they were just six years ago.
She encouraged teachers to not dwell on the pass rates but to focus on creating meaningful learning opportunities for students. “As we begin the school year with the flexibility afforded by the revised Standards of Accreditation, I encourage teachers and instructional leaders to focus on creating opportunities for engagement and to give students the opportunity to experience deeper levels of learning, Lane stated. “Ultimately, with increased student engagement, test results will reflect this renewed focus on deeper learning.”