SOL test results don’t worry school officials

SALEM – Salem and Roanoke County schools’ SOL test scores are up in math and history, but slightly down in English and science – as expected. And although local school officials would like to see improvements, they aren’t worried.

Standards of Learning test scores were released for 2012-13 were released at 10 a.m. on Tuesday by the Virginia Department of Education.

One of the reasons for lower scores across Virginia is changes to the tests and ways they are administered, said Dr. Joe Coleman, who is Salem Schools Director of Assessment as well as principal of G.W. Carver Elementary.

“The English composition writing test was a new version this year which used technology-enhanced items online.” In other words, students had to write their compositions directly into the computer format. “It was more of a challenge than it had been in the past,” Coleman added.

“…When there have been new tests administered you typically see a drop in scores that first year,” said Julie Grimes, VDOE communications manager. “Then teachers and schools adjust and you see those scores rebound.”

That’s what happened around the state in 2012 for the math test, which was changed that year; schools made changes and this year, for Salem, Roanoke County and Montgomery County schools, math scores went up.

In Montgomery County, for example, the school system added secondary math coaches to support math teachers at the middle and high school levels.

Salem Superintendent Alan Seibert prepared a statement the day before the release of the SOLs – which he has lobbied against on a state level as being out of date, in favor of more individualized measures. Salem also uses Measures of Academic Progress or MAP. Seibert believes MAP as an “authentic measure of individual student growth over time… and tells students, parents and teachers how the child is performing based on national norms.”

Seibert pointed out SOL results are “once again very affirming overall.”

“In Salem City Schools, we have moved far beyond aggregated SOL scores as a meaningful measure because aggregate SOL results report percentages, and we don’t teach percentages, we teach children…individual children,” he said. “The terrific people who serve children in Salem City Schools have been more focused on measuring and reporting the progress of every individual child for several years now.  We understand that if we do right by every single child, the percentages will take care of themselves.”

Coleman was also positive about the outcomes. “Our kids did very, very well. I was really proud of them. And the teachers who prepared them for the tests they were going to experience,” Coleman said. “That’s what enabled us to move forward in the SOL arena.”

That’s not to say Salem Schools’ administrators and teachers are complacent. “You’re always going to have areas where we can improve,” he said. “Superintendent Alan Seibert asked us in a recent Administrators’ Academy to make a presentation on how we could work on students’ academic growth and academic competence. The superintendent wants to move forward, always.”


Salem schools’ SOL math scores go up, English, science drop slightly

By Stephanie Floyd, Intern

The SOL test results are in for schools in Salem, Roanoke County and around Virginia. Overall, schools are seeing improvements, with a rising percentage of students passing their mathematics SOLs.

Standards of Quality test results for 2012-2013 were released at 10 a.m. on Aug. 20. Statewide, 71 percent of students passed the mathematics assessment for their grade level or course, compared with 68 percent during 2011-2012.

Students posted gains on all of the individual grade-level and end-of-course mathematics SOL tests, with the biggest increases in grades 4, 6, 7 and Algebra II.

In addition to math, Salem school scores went up for U.S. history part I on the elementary school level and geography. They stayed the same – an even 100 on a 100-percent pass rate – for Virginia studies at West Salem Elementary, though.

Specific scores for East Salem Elementary, West Salem Elementary, South Salem Elementary and G.W. Carver Elementary; Andrew Lewis Middle School and Salem High School are noted below:

East Salem Elementary:

In reading scores, grade 5 went from 93 percent passing to 82 percent passing. In writing, grade 5 went from 89 percent to 76 percent. In history, East Salem passed all tests with greater than a 90 percent passing rate. In math, grade 5 saw an identical rate from last year with 75 percent passing. In science, grade 3 had over 90 percent passing, while grade 5 dropped from 97 percent to 71 percent passing.

 West Salem Elementary:

Reading scores for grades 3 and 4 decreased to 73 and 85 percent from 96 and 97 percent; grade 5 saw a 1 percent increase to 90 percent passing this year. Writing fell from 93 to 80 percent.

History remained at 90 percent passing or greater, with 100 percent of VA studies students passing for another year. Math scores saw an overall increase with grade 3 from 70 to 72; grade 4 from 81 to 89; grade 5 from 69 to 76. Grade 3 and 5 science scores were 92 and 85 percent passing, down from 97 and 93 percent.

South Salem Elementary:

Grade 3-5 experienced drops in reading scores from greater-than-90 percent to 86-88 percent. Writing scores – which for the first year were done on the computer test – dropped to 89 from 95 percent passing. History and VA studies increased scores to 95 percent passing, while US History I saw a drop from 89 percent passing to 84 percent passing. In math, grade 3 went from 93 to 86 percent passing; grade 4 went from 82 to 95 percent passing; grade 5 increased two points at 77 percent passing. Science scores dropped slightly, grade 3 from 99 to 91 percent passing and grade 5 from 97 to 86 percent passing.

G.W. Carver Elementary:

In reading, scores ranged from 76-86 percent, down from last year’s 89-97 percent pass rate. Writing scores went down from 94 to 79. History had passing rates of 88-98 percent, remaining the same or being greater than the 2011-12 school year rates. Math scores ranged from 71-84 percent, with only grade 3 dropping one percent. In science, grade 3 went from 96 to 95 percent passing; grade 5 dropped from 91 to 55 percent passing.

Andrew Lewis Middle:

Reading scores dropped overall and ranged from 77 to 83 percent passing. Writing scores dropped from 96 to 80 percent passing. Geography increased 1 percent to 90 percent passing; U.S. History II from 85 to 77 percent passing; civics and economy from 92 to 83. All math passing rates increased or remained the same, with geometry staying at 100 percent passing for another year.

 Salem High School:

Reading scores went from 95 to 92 percent passing. Writing went from 95 to 89 percent passing. History scores dropped but remained with 91 to 95 percent passing rates. Algebra I saw 59 percent passing, remaining the same from last year; Algebra II saw 90 percent passing from 84 percent. Geometry dropped to 67 from 81 percent passing. Biology, chemistry and earth science scores all dropped but remained within 88-97 percent passing

State accreditation and federal accountability reports will be issued next month, along with updated school and division report cards.