SOL Report: Loudoun Students’ Progress Levels Off

Loudoun County’s public school students pass rates held fairly steady on state-mandated math, reading, history and science exams, as shown in results released by the Virginia Department of Education on Tuesday.

This is the first year Loudoun’s Standards of Learning scores have leveled off after seeing three straight years of modest gains. The division’s pass rates did, however, meet or exceed the state pass rate for 27 of the 28 SOL tests administered in the spring.

The one area they fell below the state average was in eighth grade math. Sixty-nine percent of Loudoun eighth-graders passed; while that’s a five-point improvement over last year, it is still five points behind the rest of the state. That column has been a bit of a black eye on Loudoun’s report card for years, but school system leaders have explained that it is in part because high-achieving eighth-graders take the Algebra exam, instead of their grade-level math exam.

The most notable gains were made by Loudoun students concerned English Language Learners. They exceeded last year’s pass rates in every subject area tested. Their pass rates were: 66 percent on the reading exam (up two points from last year), 56 percent on writing (11 points above last year), 68 percent on math (a gain of two points), 60 percent on science (up three points), and 70 percent on history (up one point).

Students with disabilities held their pass rates fairly steady after they made big gains from the 2014-15 school year to 2015-16. They remained unchanged in history (74 percent), science (67 percent) and slipped one percentage point in reading to 60 percent. They saw progress in writing (up four points to 58 percent) and math (up one point to 60 percent).

In recent years, school leaders have targeted more resources to ELL and special education programs. Two years ago, they rolled out a new teaching model that encourages ELL teachers and general education teachers to spend more time co-teaching. That’s meant ELL students who were once pulled out of their general education classrooms now spend more time with their English-speaking peers.

James Dallas, director of teaching and learning, said his department has also worked to provide more “robust” professional training to ELL and general education teachers. The school system is also opening a one-stop-shop center for ELL students and their families.

“With the opening of The Welcome Center, a considerable amount of parent support with screening, identification and placement of our EL students has led to consistent placement in credit-bearing courses that provide a pathway toward graduation, which is reflective of the learner’s career goals,” Dallas said.

[See Loudoun County Public Schools’ complete results here.]

Pass rates among minority students also stayed mostly unchanged, aside from making some improvements on the writing exams.

Black students made a six-point gain in writing to 78 percent and a two-point gain in history to 85 percent, but slipped one point in reading to 77 percent. Their year-over-year pass rate remained unchanged in math (73 percent) and science (80 percent).

Hispanic students’ pass rates saw three-point gains in writing (to 76 percent) but slipped slightly in reading (down one to 73 percent) and math (down one to 71 percent). Their pass rates did not change in science (73 percent) or history (80 percent).

Achievement among Asian students barely shifted, and remained well above students of other races. Their pass rates held steady in history (97 percent) and science (94 percent), and shifted just one point in reading (down one to 93 percent), writing (up one to 94 percent), and math (down one to 93 percent).

At the state level, student achievement on the SOL tests also held fairly steady, as compared to last year. Overall, 80 percent of students achieved proficient or advanced scores in reading, and 79 percent passed tests in mathematics, compared with 80 percent in both subjects in 2015-2016. Eighty-two percent passed grade-level or end-of-course SOL tests in science, compared with 83 percent previously. Student achievement in writing improved by two points, with 79 percent passing compared with 77 percent during 2015-2016. Overall achievement in history/social science was unchanged, with 86 percent of students passing SOL tests in the subject.

“Students continue to perform at substantially higher levels on the commonwealth’s rigorous assessments in mathematics, English and science than when these tests were first introduced in 2012 and 2013,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples stated. “This long-term, upward trend is far more important than a snapshot for a single year and reflects the hard work of thousands of teachers, principals and other educators and their dedication to helping students meet high expectations.”

VDOE will announce the 2016-2017 state accreditation ratings in mid-September.

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