HARRISONBURG — The Virginia Department of Education released data Tuesday on the performance of students on Standards of Learning assessments in reading, writing, mathematics, science and history during the 2018-2019 school year.
The results reflect changes in student test-taking patterns last year caused by revisions to the commonwealth’s diploma and school accountability standards, and the introduction of new mathematics tests in all grade levels.
Rockingham County Public Schools overall fell short of state averages in reading and writing. However, rose above the state averages in math, science and history.
The state average for reading was 78 percent of students passing Standards of Learning tests. Rockingham fell just short with 76 percent of students passing.
Students across the state struggled in the writing category and Rockingham was no exception. Sixty-three percent of county students passed the writing SOL, compared to 76 percent statewide.
But Rockingham bested their statewide peers, scoring one percentage point more in math, science and history. In math, 83 percent of students passed, in science, 82 percent and in history, 81 percent.
At a building level, 14 of Rockingham County's 22 schools scored above the state average in at least one subject, which is 64 percent. All four high schools scored above the state average in all subject areas.
At the middle school level, Elkton Middle, Montevideo and Pence scored above the state average in at least one subject.
McGaheysville Elementary, Ottobine Elementary, Peak View Elementary, Pleasant Valley, South River Elementary and Wayland Elementary all scored above the state average in at least one subject. Wayland Elementary beat state averages or met them in all subject areas.
"We were pleased with the results," said Cheryl Estep, supervisor of assessment and data analysis. "Most of our results were above average."
Estep explained the dip in writing SOL scores is due to a change in the way the school division assesses writing. Last year the Department of Education offered school divisions a new way to judge writing skill.
Instead of high school students taking a standardized test, school divisions were able to implement their own version of assessment. For that reason, the school division's overall writing passing average was based solely on middle school writing scores.
What they're doing now "better reflects our philosophy in regards to how we assess students," Estep said.
Students in grades ninth through 11th create a writing portfolio over the three years, based on real-world writing prompts. Their portfolio is then judged after those three years. Rising seniors were the exception, as this was the first year the new performance assessment was implemented, so their portfolios were lighter as a result.
Harrisonburg City Public Schools failed to meet state averages in all subject areas. Sixty-two percent of students passed reading SOL tests. In writing 68 percent of students scored a passing grade. In math, 72 percent of students passed their tests, in science, 73 percent, and in history, 69 percent of students.
At a building level, Thomas Harrison Middle School outscored statewide peers in history, as did Waterman Elementary School.
Pat Lintner, chief academic officer for Harrisonburg Public Schools, said that on reports the school division's progress are often masked by the fact that students who don't speak English are being asked to take tests in English.
"When you think about that, the results are entirely predictable," he said.
The state's accreditation reports, which will come out next month, paint a much clearer picture of the progress going on within the school division and the subgroups of students.
"Success is measured in three ways," Lintner said of accreditation reports. "Passing SOL tests, who is making adequate progress, and if you're an ELL, an English Language Learner, whether you're making small steps to success by making progress with language acquisition."
Shenandoah County students failed to meet state averages in all subject matters. They fell short in reading with 67 percent of students passing SOL tests, in writing with 65 percent. In math the school division saw 76 percent of students with passing scores. In science 77 percent of students passed, and 75 percent in history.
Page County outperformed statewide peers in science by 2 percentage points, but fell short in other subject areas. In reading, 72 percent of students passed, and 65 percent in writing. Seventy-seven percent of students passed in math, and 78 percent in history.
Revisions to the standards of accreditation that were approved by the state Board of Education in 2017 and became effective last year reduced the number of SOL tests high school students must pass in order to graduate.
Under the revised regulations, students who meet the testing requirement in a content area do not have to take another test in the subject unless additional testing is required for the school to comply with federal testing requirements. Previously, high school students continued to take end-of-course tests even if they had already earned the credits in the content area necessary to graduate.
SOL pass rates affect whether a school is accredited by the state Department of Education.
VDOE will announce school accreditation ratings for the 2019-2020 school year in September.
Accreditation ratings reflect achievement in English, mathematics and science; student growth toward proficiency in reading and mathematics; progress toward closing achievement gaps in English and mathematics; and other school quality indicators, such as graduation rates.