SOLs expose gaps in Northern Va. student success

WASHINGTON — Northern Virginia school systems face significant achievement gaps that can be tied to students’ economic background among other issues, detailed results of this year’s Standards of Learning tests show.

Whether tied to income, test format, school quality or other causes, in every Northern Virginia school system, white students passed at higher rates than the systemwide average. In most districts, students from Asian backgrounds also outperformed the systemwide average.

Low-income students

While Falls Church had the highest overall pass rates in Northern Virginia, and in some cases the state, it also had the largest gap in pass rates for low-income students compared to the systemwide average. About 7 percent of the small school system’s students qualify for free or reduced price lunches.

Loudoun County (with a low-income student population of 17 percent), Fauquier County (25 percent low-income), Fredericksburg (62 percent low-income), Arlington County (30 percent low-income) and Fairfax County (27 percent low-income) were among the other school systems with the largest achievement gaps for low-income students.


In every school system in Northern Virginia, on every category of testing, low-income students passed at lower rates than the systemwide average.

The smallest achievement gap was in Manassas Park, where about 60 percent of students are from low-income families. On math tests, 72 percent of low-income Manassas Park students passed, compared to the systemwide average of 75 percent.

Racial gaps

In Fredericksburg, the gap between the proportion of white students and the proportion of black students who passed writing tests was a whopping 40 points. The gap is 33 points in science, 27 points in history and social sciences, and 24 points in reading and math.

Fredericksburg achievement gap

For at least one subject area, the gap was at least 20 points in Alexandria, Fairfax, Fauquier, Orange, Spotsylvania, Arlington, Culpeper, Winchester and Manassas.

Alexandria had some of the largest gaps in Northern Virginia in the proportion of white students passing the state standardized tests compared to the proportions of black or Hispanic students who passed the tests.

The gap between white and Hispanic student pass rates on both science and writing tests in Alexandria was highest in Northern Virginia at 38 points.

Alexandria achievement gap

For Hispanic students, the smallest gaps in Northern Virginia were in Frederick County on history and social science tests, Orange County on writing and math tests, and Fauquier County on writing tests.

For black students, the gaps were smallest across several subject areas in Falls Church, Frederick County and Manassas Park.

Gender gaps

Female students generally passed at higher rates than male students did statewide, and Northern Virginia school systems were no exception.

The largest male-female gap on a single test type in Northern Virginia was 16 points on writing in Fredericksburg.

The top nine male-female gaps in Northern Virginia are all on writing tests (Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Culpeper, Frederick, Manassas, Manassas Park, Stafford, Alexandria and Fauquier).

Male students passed at a higher rate than female students in specific subjects in only a handful of Northern Virginia school systems.

The largest gaps in favor of male students were five points in Manassas and four points in Manassas Park on the history and social science exams.

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