Tag Archives: SOLs

Virginia’s Student “Growth” Model Stunts Achievement

by Matt Hurt

Virginia’s system for accrediting public K-12 schools has engendered some concern since the release of  school accreditation data on September 19. While  students exhibited lower proficiency during the 2022 school year than in 2019, as measured by Standards of Learning test scores, the percentage of schools meeting the requirements for full accreditation barely budged.

Table 1 below demonstrates the rates at which Virginia schools obtained a Level 1 rating (the highest available in our accreditation system) for each of the key metrics. Table 2 below displays the overall pass rates in Virginia for each of those content areas. (The English accreditation indicator is a composite of reading and writing results.)

Note that the English and math SOL pass rates dropped from 2019 to 2022, but Virginia schools didn’t realize similar declines in accreditation ratings. English (a composite of reading and writing) pass rates fell 4.27% but schools awarded the Level One accreditation rating increased 0.83%. Math SOL pass rates plummeted 15.56% but schools slid only 0.88%.

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Addressing the Spiral Effect in Learning Loss

by Dr. Kathleen Smith

During the COVID-19 pandemic educators did what they had to do in a short amount of time (five months in the case of Virginia) with little resources (extra funding came long after September of 2020) to keep kids learning through the 2020-2021 school year. A wholesale shift to remote and hybrid learning had never been tried before. Perhaps the challenge could have been handled better, but educators did the best they could under trying circumstances.

Rather than panic over the gap between the pre- and post-pandemic Standards of Learning pass rates, educators should focus now on catching up. The good news is that they know what they need to do, and they have many resources to get the job done.

Here is the bad news: teachers have only a finite amount of time to sequence what needs to be taught, and the scope of recouping lost learning is more than can be accomplished in one school year. Their job is made more challenging by the phenomenon of “spiraling” — in which a student must master one skill level before moving on to the next.

For example, in mathematics, the student first learns simple multiplication and then moves on to more complex multiplication. Continue reading

Schrödinger’s Schools? Are Virginia’s Schools Good Or Not? Yes.

by Andrew Rotherham

In the tiresome debate about our schools, here in Virginia and nationally, questions like “Are schools as good/bad as people say?” dominate.

These are the wrong kind of questions.

The big story of American education is variance — in everything from funding to outcomes. School performance is mixed overall and here in Virginia. That’s why Virginia at once has schools that are the envy of the world, and also fewer than one in five Virginia low-income and/or Black 8th-graders are proficient on the highly-regarded NAEP assessment and there are big gaps on our state assessments and a lot of underperformance. Often the schools producing those disparate outcomes are in close quarters to one another.

Yesterday, Virginia released school accreditation ratings based on the most recent student achievement data. Because Virginia doesn’t have any sort of accountability system or much in the way of school choice, these ratings take on a lot of substantive and political weight. They also pretty consistently lead to a lot of confusion. This year is no exception. The new rankings show that almost all Virginia schools are accredited and doing OK, even though we know there were problems before the pandemic — and that the pandemic was a disaster for a lot of kids. Continue reading

Youngkin Admin Questions Value of School Accreditation Standards

Source: Virginia Department of Education

by James A. Bacon

A Virginia Department of Education press release issued yesterday contained a vitally important message: Virginia’s school accreditation standards are failing to do their job. Despite unprecedented learning losses during the COVID epidemic, the percentage of Virginia public schools meeting the standards fell from 92% pre-COVID to 89% post-COVID, a decline of only three percentage points.

“These ratings call into question the effectiveness of our accreditation standards in identifying schools where students are struggling to achieve grade-level proficiency,” stated Superintendent Jillian Balow. “Frankly, the ratings we are releasing today fail to capture the extent of the crisis facing our schools and students.”

And how did the legacy media treat this story?

The Washington Post ignored it. Instead, it published a story headlined, “Youngkin’s rules for trans students leave many teens fearful, despondent.” As far as I can tell from the round-up of clips in the VA News aggregator, not one of Virginia’s major metro dailies covered the announcement. The (Charlottesville) Daily Progress, the (Harrisonburg) Daily News Record, and WSLS (Roanoke) and WTOP (Washington) were the only legacy media outlets to mention it. Only the two TV stations included the Balow quotes in the body of their stories. Continue reading

Some School Divisions Successfully Mitigated COVID Learning Losses in Math

by James C. Sherlock

Congratulations are in order.

Some school divisions, spread around the state, did a terrific job in mitigating mathematics learning losses during COVID.

I picked math for its baseline importance in school and in life and the relative inability for students to advance in that subject without instruction, compared to reading and writing.

In trying to measure those losses with available data, I have compared division math SOL pass rates in 2021-22 to those in the last pre-pandemic year of 2018-19.

I believe it to be a good measure of successful teacher instruction, the learning environments at home, and in school and student effort.

That standard produced an eclectic and in some ways surprising list of divisions with the lowest learning losses.

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Virginia Public Schools and Learning Losses – Part 1 – Winners and Losers

by James C. Sherlock

This article is the first in a series about COVID-associated learning losses in Virginia public schools.

The contribution I hope to make is to measure learning losses and correlating factors in each of 132 school divisions horizontally against its own pre-COVID learning assessment results.

That is different than comparing Richmond to Falls Church to Wise County vertically. We will do that too, but only in knowledge differentials — gains and losses — across all grade levels, not in specific levels of knowledge attained by the students before and after COVID interruptions.

Then we will seek correlation of learning losses with other factors. At this level of aggregation of statistics, correlation is what can be done. Causation assessment requires far more information than is available to the public.

I have left out race as a factor on purpose, at least at this time. I have found that when race is included all of the rest of the data tend to be ignored. A mistake in my view. I have included a factor of percentage of students in each school division economically disadvantaged for this data run. I may check it against racial correlations later.

The measures of student achievement used here for measuring learning losses are:

  • the last SOLs taken before COVID in 2018-2019 and
  • the SOLs in the post-COVID-shutdown year of 2021-22.  

Resources over that period were teachers, kids and their parents. Some turnover in teachers and kids, but not significant at this level of aggregation. The kids were three years older, replaced by younger ones in each grade. Since SOL testing does not begin until 3rd grade, virtually all that took SOLs in 2021-22 were in the system in 2018-19.

You will see that some divisions — teachers, students and their parents together — navigated the three years between the spring of 2019 and the Spring of 22 well. Some very well. Others failed in what they tried to achieve. Some badly.

As I roll out the data in a series of articles I think readers will find the learning loss data and its horizontal and vertical correlations informative.

And in some cases surprising. Continue reading

Another Way to Crunch the SOL Numbers…

For simplicity’s sake in recent posts about the 2021-22 Standards of Learning (SOL) results, I’ve used the pass rates for English reading tests as a proxy for all five subjects, including English writing, math, science, and history. Perhaps a better way to rate the performance of Virginia school districts would be to compute a composite score of all five. Bacon’s Rebellion correspondent Jim Weigand has done so, and I publish the results here.

The table above shows the 12 school districts with the top composite scores — highest possible pass rate of 500 — and the 12 districts with the lowest composite scores. Click on the “Continue reading” link to see the scores for all school districts. Continue reading

Can We Learn from the Lexington Outlier?

We can learn a lot from outliers. They draw attention to variables and correlations we may not have considered before. In researching the previous post, I came across this anomaly: in the City of Lexington, economically disadvantaged Blacks passed their Standards of Learning reading tests at a higher rate (83.3%) than Blacks who were not economically disadvantaged (69.2%).

This makes no sense. The conventional wisdom says that affluent students enjoy a huge educational edge over disadvantaged students. What’s going on? Continue reading