The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) reported today that all 24 schools in the division have been accredited for the 2022-23 school year, based on results from the state’s Standards of Learning (SOL) examinations in reading and writing, math, science, and social studies earlier this year. Four schools in the division were accredited with conditions, meaning their overall pass rates in one or more student demographic groups did not meet state standards. Each year, SOL examinations are administered to students in grades 3-12.
“While in-person instructional time lost to the pandemic may have contributed to lower scores, there is no question this year’s results are similar to those we saw prior to the pandemic,” said Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Matthew Haas. “We are not providing all the necessary resources to empower our Black and Hispanic students, our students with disabilities, our students for whom English is not their primary language, and our students who are economically disadvantaged to achieve at the highest levels of their potential,” the superintendent said.
To illustrate the point, in English, which denotes a combination of reading and writing tests, the unadjusted SOL pass rate for all students in the division was 75%, compared to a state average of 73%, but the pass rate for our Black students was 50%, which is 10% below the state average for Black students. Nearly the same was true for our Hispanic students, who had a pass rate of 51%. Among economically disadvantaged students, the division-wide pass rate also was 51%, eight percentage points under the state average for this demographic group. While the pass rate for our students with disabilities compared favorably to the state average for this demographic group, it still was far below the pass rate for all students in the division.
Similar results were reflected on math tests, in which the average for all students in the division matched the state pass rate of 66%, but pass rates for our Black, Hispanic, and economically disadvantaged students, and our English Learners, ranged from eight to 11 percentage points below the state averages for these demographic groups.
One of the division’s three goals in its strategic plan is to facilitate thriving students by providing students with learning experiences that are grounded in high expectations and networks of care that ensure academic and social-emotional development for all students while eliminating opportunity, access and achievement gaps.
Earlier this year, the state department of education reported unadjusted SOL pass rates, which are the pass and fail percentages in each student demographic group for each school. For accreditation purposes, today’s report from the state is based upon adjusted pass rate results. These percentages, calculated by the VDOE, take into account improvements in test scores, even if the improved scores remain below the state’s pass rate.
Haas said today’s state report showed that, for several demographic groups, the VDOE adjusted pass rates have improved compared to 2018-19 adjusted pass rates (the last full year before the pandemic), but were still below state averages. The superintendent also said the division is seeing some incremental benefits from its teacher professional development around culturally responsive teaching, recent instructional programming based on the science of reading, and other improved assessment and intervention programming.
“While encouraging, this modest performance growth is insufficient. The key to closing our achievement gaps based on race, language-learner status, special capacities, and socioeconomics is for our entire division, together with our community partners, to develop plans and take actions with fidelity to ensure we are creating positive changes with a greater sense of urgency,” Haas said.
Accordingly, Haas announced that the school division will be developing and issuing a request for proposal (RFP) within the next 30 days to engage an outside organization to conduct an independent audit of the division’s reading instructional program, its classroom practices, and its intervention and support models, as well as staffing. The audit, Haas explained, will lead to specific recommendations and actions for improvements. Further, the superintendent said he is appointing a task force of teachers, specialists, central office staff, and community partners to offer counsel in developing the scope of the RFP and, later, to review the results of the audit and offer recommendations for short- and long-term improvements.
“Strengthening the reading skills of all students is foundational to their success in all academic areas,” Haas said. “Based on the findings of the audit, we will devote resources in our next school budget to such areas as professional development and assessments to measure how well we are providing the resources and support that all of our students in all demographic groups deserve,” he added.
Dr. Daphne Keiser, the division’s Assistant Superintendent for School Community Engagement, said, “Connecting with our families, businesses, and community partners is critical. We have to harness the powerful capabilities and resources we all can offer to achieve comprehensive equal educational opportunity and to meet our strategic goal of empowering thriving students.”
One example, Keiser said, is the division’s streamlined volunteer recruitment process, which allows both schools and members of the broader community to more easily identify needs and opportunities for service. “We began this school year with over 600 registered volunteers. Building expanding relationships with community stakeholders, schools and families will lead to closing access, achievement and opportunity gaps for our students,” she said.
Every student demographic group met the state standard for SOL pass rates in 12 of our schools, including eight elementary schools: Baker-Butler, Broadus Wood, Brownsville, Crozet, Hollymead, Meriwether Lewis, Murray, and Stone-Robinson. Joining these eight schools are three middle schools, Henley, Lakeside and Walton, and our Community Lab School, which serves students in grades 6-12.
Eight other schools were accredited, although they had at least one demographic group that did not meet the state standard. They received a waiver because they previously met the standard for three consecutive years. In this category are three elementary schools, Agnor-Hurt, Scottsville, and Stony Point; two middle schools, Burley and Journey; and three high schools, Albemarle, Monticello, and Western Albemarle.
The four schools accredited with conditions include Greer, Mountain View, Red Hill, and Woodbrook elementary schools. These schools also had at least one student demographic group that did not meet state standards, and they had not yet met the standard for all demographic groups for three consecutive years and were not eligible for a waiver.
Results for the division and for each school, across all demographic groups, will be available on the VDOE’s School Quality Profiles website; however, the site is currently down for maintenance.
“The one point I want to underscore,” Haas said, “is that, as superintendent and as a long-time staff member of this division, I own these results. They are unacceptable and do not in any way reflect the efforts or abilities of our students, families and educators. They do reflect the inability of our current systems to produce the results we are seeking and clearly demonstrate the need for these systems to immediately change.”
CONTACT: Phil Giaramita, Strategic Communications Officer