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Va. students find math SOLs more challenging

Wednesday - 8/15/2012, 4:07am  ET

SOL math test is much harder

WTOP's Hank Silverberg reports.

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By MICHAEL FELBERBAUM
Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. - As expected, Virginia education officials said Tuesday that new, more rigorous mathematics tests drove pass rates down notably during the last school year, the first in which students were tested under revised standards aimed at better preparing them for college or post-graduation employment.

The Virginia Department of Education officials said that while overall math results were down on the Standards of Learning tests for the 2011-2012 school year, the rates provide a "solid foundation" for future achievement.

"Virginia teachers and students worked hard throughout the school year _ and for many, into the summer _ to meet the Board of Education's challenging new mathematics standards," state Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia Wright said in a news release. "While we have a long climb before we reach the achievement levels we hope to see on the new mathematics tests, the results released today represent a good start."

According to the statewide data, 75 percent of students passed the Algebra I assessment, compared with a 94 percent pass rate for the 2010-2011 school year. Pass rates for Algebra II dropped from 91 percent to 75 percent, and 74 percent of students passed the Geometry assessment test during the latest school year, compared with 87 percent in the previous year. Education officials also saw declines in pass rates for assessments given to students in grades three through eight.

But the statewide pass rates in Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II were 10 points to 14 points higher than the early sampling of 24,000 students tested last fall and winter, officials said.

In a statement on Tuesday, Gov. Bob McDonnell said that raising standards was the "right thing to do and in the long-term interest of Virginia students."

"This is a necessary step in ensuring that Virginia students are ready to excel in our globally competitive economy," he said.

And as schools align curriculum and instruction with the new standards, Board of Education President David Foster said he's confident the state will see higher achievement levels.

"We knew this would be a transition year," Foster said in a conference call with reporters. "They not only are more rigorous in terms of content but in testing problem-solving ability, critical thinking and the ability to use technology."

While students across the state experienced declines in math assessment pass rates, officials said results for English, science and history/social science assessments stayed relatively flat, with some improvements. Particularly, the state saw a three-point gain in the third grade reading pass rate, which improved from 83 percent in the 2010-11 school year to 86 percent last school year.

The education department will continue to provide training and resources to help reach the new math standards, as well as new English and science standards that are set to be implemented during the 2012-2013 school year, officials said.

Virginia plans to release its annual accreditation ratings based on test results and other measures next month. Schools will be able to use a three-year average of test results to help lessen the impact of lower rates in the last school year.

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Online:

Virginia Department of Education: http://www.doe.virginia.gov

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Michael Felberbaum can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/MLFelberbaum .


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)