New Math Exams Lead to Lower SOL Pass Rates

Pass rates for mathematics fell across the board, drastically in some schools.

New Standards of Learning mathematics exams this past school year led many schools to see significantly lower pass rates for students of all ages in math subjects, including in the Mount Vernon District, Fairfax County school officials said Thursday.

According to exam results released Wednesday, Fort Hunt Elementary School had a pass rate of 91 percent in grade 4 mathematics in 2010-11, but that number fell to only 41 percent this past school year. Hollin Meadows Elementary School saw its pass rate for grade 3 mathematics go from 90 to only 66 percent. 

At Stratford Landing Elementary School, the pass rate for grade 5 mathematics fell from 98 to 53 percent.

School district spokesman John Torre said all math tests were redesigned this year and made more rigorous, and that the decline in math scores was not unexpected.

“The drop in math scores is similar to what happened back in 2005, 2006, when the math SOLs were added to grades 4, 6 and 7, but the test scores quickly rebounded in the following years, and we expect the same turnaround in the years to come,” Torre said.

Torre noted that the reading test is being revised for the next exams, which will likely impact reading scores next year.

went from a pass rate of 78 percent in geometry to only 43 percent. Bryant Principal Larry Jones said teachers will now focus on providing individualized attention to students who are struggling with math concepts, offer an enriched and revised curriculum and test each student at the beginning and at the end of each week.

“We did expect there would be a drop in scores due to the test,” Jones said. “The test questions changed and the test format changed.”

School board member Dan Storck, who represents the Mount Vernon District, said educators expected math scores to drop.

“Usually you’ll see a drop the first year, and then slowly it will start to creep back up as people become accustomed to the test,” Storck said. “The curriculum also needs to be modified to be in line with what the state is testing.”

Storck said he found it frustrating that the state has increased the difficulty of certain tests to the point where, in his view, the results are no longer minimum standards, but rather aspirational goals. 

“The state’s focused like a laser on on specific skill sets with one particular test, and not, per se, what that child may know or be able to demonstrate in a way that isn’t a multiple choice, fill-in-the-bubble test,” he said.

On the other hand, some schools saw drastic improvements in exam results in certain grades and subjects. Bryant Alternative High School, for example, went from a 67 percent pass rate in World History II to 90 percent. 

Hybla Valley Elementary School’s pass rate in Virginia studies went from 55 to 86 percent, and its U.S. History I pass rate rose from 38 to 87 percent. At Bucknell Elementary School, the pass rate for Virginia studies jumped from 53 to 81 percent.

C. L. Simpson September 14, 2012 at 12:58 PM
I think that something needs to be done, particularly since verified credits at the high school level are based on passing the SOL. This could mean the difference, in some cases, in a student receiving an advanced diploma. Very, very shortsighted for the people responsible for this in not thinking through the potential ramifications down the road just for the sake of making a test more difficult.
Mary Porter, CHC September 14, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Since our high schools are part of the same school system, they too have experienced this. It was anticipated, as will be the drop in the new tests this year. I cannot imagine our school system would be so short-sighted as to not take these aberrations into account when reviewing verified credits.
Than Nguyen September 15, 2012 at 02:55 AM
That's a great idea to require students take a suite of new exams to gauge what they've learned in high school and how on track they are to succeed in college and careers. Many high school graduates are unwittingly unprepared for college and often drop out when they are not able to handle college courses. Than Nguyen http://www.examsoft.com


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