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Carroll looks at Virtual Academy test scores

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The school system is including the online school for the first time in its SOL results.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Scores for math in the Virtual Academy of Virginia reflected a trend of lower-than-usual math results in the latest round of Standards of Learning testing.
Carroll County Public Schools helps with the online academy run by the private company K12.
The virtual school’s report card posted by the Virginia Department of Education shows that online students missed benchmarks in math and history scores.
With the math accreditation benchmark set at 70 percent pass rate for the test, Virtual Academy students posted a 51 percent pass rate, according to data from the education department.
The benchmark for history was 70 and the virtual students received a pass rate of 65 percent.
In other areas, Virginia Virtual Academy students earned scores of 81 percent for English in grades 3 to 5 (benchmark 75); English, 89 percent pass rate (benchmark 75); science grade three, 76 percent pass rate (benchmark 50); and science, 75 percent pass rate (benchmark 70).
Testing chief Beverly Parker reported on the testing results on Carroll County Public Schools as a division at the Nov. 13 school board meeting.
Though she gave a preliminary report on the results of the last round of testing this summer, but education officials decided to look at the virtual academy as its own school since then.
“The Virginia Department of Education was working with all of our testing data to pull out the Virginia Virtual Academy since we created that as our 11th school,” Parker explained.
“We have very good results for reading, for science and for history and our lowest results are for math,” she said when speaking about results in grades three through five in the school division.
Teachers have attributed lower math scores to the implementation of new math testing.
Results for grade three across the division was 56 percent, 69 percent for grade four and 46 percent for grade five.
“So these are low — we expect those to go up this year,” Parker said.
Grades seven and eight also saw low math scores at 46 and 58 percent passing, respectively.
Other school divisions around the region and the state also experienced lower test scores in math, she said. Carroll students did better on history and sciences.
Test scores usually fall when the state issues updates to the SOLs, but then recover as teachers get used to them, educators have discussed.
“This year the state has implemented new Standards of Learning in English reading, English writing and science, so when we test in the fall for end of courses and in spring for all of our grades... there may be a decline in test scores and we’re working very hard to keep that from happening.”
It takes about a year for teachers to get accustomed to the new tests, she said. These focus on higher-order thinking skills, like application and synthesizing.
School Board Chairman Brian Spencer wanted to emphasize the kinds of thinking needed to perform well on the tests.
These are not simple recall kinds of tests. Instead, they force students to apply their knowledge to find the answers, educators agreed.
Parents recall instances of rote learning while they were in school, but it isn’t like that now.
“I think so many parents think that our teachers just teach for the test and they don’t realize we’re not teaching for an answer for the test,” Spencer said. “We have to teach the philosophy of the thinking behind the test.”
“The teachers never see the question prior to testing,” Parker agreed. “Teachers can’t prepare for every single question that may exist so they have to prepare students to think at a very high level.”
She gave an example of a kind of math question that could appear, like being given dimensions of a room and then asking the students to figure out how much it would cost to carpet that room.
It’s multiple step problem solving. Parker offered to bring in examples of questions to share with the school board at a future date.
Employers have asked educators to gear their lessons toward real-world applications, Assistant Schools Superintendent Mark Burnette added.
In terms of state accreditation, Parker noted that nine of 11 Carroll County schools reached full accreditation.
Gladesboro Elementary is accredited with warning in math and the virtual school is accredited with warning for math and history. She said Gladesboro is under review and she is seeking an extensive improvement plan for the virtual school.
She wants the state to put together a specialized team to work on the online school. Parker said she has some concerns about the Virtual Academy of Virginia.
In terms of annual measurable objectives (AMOs) set by the federal government, seven out of 11 Carroll schools met all of those benchmarks, Parker said.
The schools that did not reach all the AMOs include:
• Gladesboro, in certain subgroups of math and reading
• Hillsville Elementary, in a subgroup for reading
• Carroll County High School, which missed targets for graduation rates in limited English proficiency, economic disadvantaged and students with disabilities
• the virtual academy, for math