Test changes drive down math scores

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Changes to the Standards of Learning math test drove spring pass rates down, but the Carroll schools’ testing czar believes the scores will rise again.
Beverly Parker reported on the spring preliminary SOL testing results at the July 10 school board meeting.
Charts given out to school board members show that in math, grade three had a 57 percent pass rate and 9 percent of test takers scored in the pass advanced category. In grade four, 71 percent passed (20 percent pass advanced; and in grade five, 47 percent passed (6 percent pass advanced).
In sixth grade, 82 percent passed (10 percent pass advanced); 41 percent passed (1 percent pass advanced) in seventh and 59 percent passed (4 percent pass advanced) in eighth.
“These results appeared very low — and they are low — but they are consistent with our region and across the state,” Parker said. “This is a new test and it’s very difficult.”
State education officials change SOLs every seven years and put new assessments in place, she explained. The new social studies test implemented last year was a “new generation of assessment,” testing students’ higher thinking skills, multiple-step problem solving and analysis.
Parker compared the recent math tests to state and regional scores to put Carroll’s in perspective.
Grade three math scores in Carroll were 57 percent, for example. The average for the region was 59.7 percent, "so we were right there with the regional," she said. “If you look at the state average it was 65, so we’re talking across the state.” including better funded districts in Northern Virginia.
Carroll fourth graders, with 71 percent passing in math, performed better than the 68.6 percent pass rate for the region. Parker said. Carroll’s pass rate also compared well to the state’s average of 72 percent.
Fifth grade math scores have some room for improvement, with the 47 percent pass rate for Carroll falling behind the region’s 62.5 percent and the state’s 69 percent average pass rates, she said.
Carroll’s sixth grade had an 82 percent pass rate in math, better than the region’s 77 percent and the state’s 75 percent pass rates. Parker added that the eighth graders in the county had scores above the regional average, but slightly under the state.
In secondary math classes, both Algebra 1 and 2 students had end-of-course pass rates of 64 percent in Carroll.
Algebra 2 scores are a concern for educators, as they are used as an indication of college readiness, Parker said.
After teachers see the new tests for the first time, they know what to expect, Parker said. Spring’s preliminary scores in math had improved over fall’s testing, though not as much as teachers want.
Parker also pointed to six years’ worth of test scores, noting that pass rates had risen to the 90s and upper 80s for third grade math before dropping back down to 57 percent after the new test was introduced.
“Guarantee you next year it’s going to get back up,” she said.
Science scores have followed the same pattern, but Parker warned that next year will see new SOLs tests in science, reading and writing.