The Virginia Department of Education on Thursday released results from statewide Standards of Learning tests.
Loudoun County Public Schools students did well, passing 26 of the 31 SOL tests administered, and test results show SOL proficiency rates among Loudoun students are returning to pre-pandemic levels, according to a press release from the division.
Pass rates for all SOL content areas increased or remained the same from spring 2021 to spring 2022.
In English reading, 80% earned a passing score, one point higher than 2021.
There was a less rigorous proficiency standard on the 2021-2022 reading SOL, which means students appear to have done better than they actually did, according to VDOE.
For English writing, 81% earned a passing score, which matched the same rate as last year.
Eighty-one percent passed in history or social science, an increase of 10 points from last year.
Math increased by 10 points from last year, with 74% of students passing and 75% of students passed science, an increase of 3 points from last year.
Thirty-four Loudoun County schools increased their pass rates on the English reading SOL test by at least 5 percentage points, and 50 schools increased their pass rates in the math SOL test by at least 10 percentage points.
Additionally, 34 schools increased their pass rates on the science SOL test by at least 10 points, according to the press release.
More than 96% of Loudoun students enrolled in an SOL-related course took a state assessment in 2022, a significant increase from the previous year, when VDOE opt-out waivers resulted in participation rates varying from 67% for English Reading to 73% for science.
Participation rates are now closer to pre-pandemic years when at least 99% of students were tested in every content area, according to the release.
Loudoun Superintendent Scott Ziegler said he was encouraged by the test results.
“Not only did our SOL scores improve or remain stable, they did so while seeing a significant increase in the number of students participating in SOL testing. I am also heartened that students with disabilities and English learners scored above the state average on these assessments,” Ziegler said.
SOL proficiency rates show English learners and students with disabilities in Loudoun County scored higher than similar students across the state, although still lower than their peers in Loudoun.
Loudoun students with disabilities pass rate for English reading was 50% compared to the overall state pass rate of 43%, math was 45% versus 39% across the state.
For Loudoun English learners, the English reading pass rate was 36% compared to 32% across the state, the math pass rate was 40% compared to 36% across the state.
Meanwhile, overall state numbers released by VDOE reflect the continuing impact of prolonged school closures on student learning.
“Despite one-year gains in most subjects, student achievement in all areas remained well below pre-pandemic levels,” according to a statement from VDOE.
“The bottom line is that in-person instruction matters. When we compare the 2021-2022 data with achievement in 2020-2021—when the majority of our students were learning remotely or on hybrid schedules—we can see the difference our teachers made once they were reunited with their students in their classrooms,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow.
The 2021-2022 was the return to in-person learning for all 132 Virginia school division as well as the return to normal levels of student participation in the state testing program.
Statewide in math, 66% of students overall passed in 2021-2022, compared with 82% before the pandemic, a 16-point proficiency gap from 2018-19 to 2021-22. Gaps between pre-pandemic performance and achievement in 2021-2022 were much wider among Black, Hispanic, economically disadvantaged students, English learners and students with disabilities, according to the VDOE.
Statewide in reading, there was a 5-point proficiency gap from 2018-19 to 2021-22 despite a less rigorous proficiency standard. Seventy-three percent of students overall passed SOL and other state assessments in reading. Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students saw a wider gap in reaching achievement from pre-pandemic performance compared to now.
“The first step in addressing the learning loss our students have experienced is to dive into the SOL data at the state, division and school levels and identify the instructional supports and interventions students require individually and in the aggregate to get back on track to grade-level proficiency,” Balow said. “This is especially critical for our youngest learners who have spent more than a third of their early elementary years without the benefit of in-person instruction.”
A VDOE analysis of statewide data shows a strong correlation between in-person instruction during 2020-2021 and higher achievement on the 2021-2022 SOLs. For example, 69% of students who experienced in-person instruction for nearly all of 2020-2021, and 62% of students who experienced in-person instruction for most of 2020-2021 passed their 2021-2022 math tests, compared with 39% and 37% who experienced nearly all or mostly remote instruction.
In reading, 75% of students who experienced in-person instruction for nearly all of 2020-2021, and 69% of students who experienced in-person instruction for most of 2020-2021 passed in 2021-2022, compared with 39% and 37% who experienced nearly all or mostly remote instruction.
This fall, VDOE will introduce individualized progress reports for students in grades 1-8 that will allow parents to see where their children are succeeding and where they have fallen behind. The department will pilot the progress reports in selected school divisions before making them available for students and parents statewide.
Additionally, the state budget signed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin last month includes $3.2 billion in direct aid to school divisions and provides nearly $10 million for implementation of the Virginia Literacy Act and $7 million for additional reading specialists. $100 million has also been allocated to launch innovative college laboratory schools in partnership with Virginia colleges and universities.
The 2021 General Assembly provided $40 million to school divisions during the 2021-2022 school year to address learning loss. In addition, school divisions have received $3.2 billion in federal funding since 2020 under three pandemic relief acts to address learning loss and other impacts of the pandemic.