Students Gain in Four of Five SOL Subject Areas; Achievement Gaps Remain Significant Between Several Demographic Groups

Students Gain in Four of Five SOL Subject Areas; Achievement Gaps Remain Significant Between Several Demographic Groups


(ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Virginia)—The latest results from the Virginia Department of Education’s Standards of Learning (SOL) tests show improvements by students in writing, math, history and science. Pass rates in reading dropped by a point from 75 to 74%, but were one point above the 73% state average.

The same trends were generally true across student demographic groups, but pass rates for Black and Hispanic students, students from economically disadvantaged homes, students with disabilities, and English Learners remained below division-wide averages. As an example, while the overall pass rate for the division was 74% in reading, it was 48% for Black students, 50% for Hispanic students, 44% for students with disabilities, 49% for students from economically disadvantaged homes, and 24% for English Learners.

“While some pass rates were modestly higher this year, there’s no question that, overall, these scores are far off the mark when it comes to ensuring that all of our students are learning at their highest level,” said Dr. Chandra Hayes, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction.

The assistant superintendent said the results only reinforce the importance of a recent audit of the division’s instructional practices and policies, especially as they impact students of color. The audit, conducted by an outside education consultancy nonprofit, detailed five recommendations for closing achievement gaps that were again revealed in the SOL test results. The audit was concentrated on K-5 reading and math programs in the division’s elementary schools and its Algebra 1 program in middle and high schools.

Hayes notably underscored the significance of third-grade reading skills to the future academic success of students throughout their K-12 education. “Third grade is a time when a child should be transitioning from learning to read to reading to learn. It’s when comprehension becomes essential to understanding and mastering content in all subject areas,” she said.

The division’s overall pass rates in reading for third graders was 64%, but dropped to 31% for Black students, 40% for Hispanic students, 38% for students with disabilities, 35% for students from economically disadvantaged homes, and 25% for English Learners.

These pass rates only increase the urgency of the division’s current actions based on carrying out the audit’s recommendations, including:

  • The organization of instruction around rigorous tasks;
  • The development of a systemic approach to adult (educator) learning;
  • Investment in high-quality resources to fill gaps in content;
  • The design of a Theory of Change to connect division actions to student outcomes; and
  • The strengthening of systems to incorporate more inclusive counsel and feedback from parents, community members, and other stakeholders.

The division currently is investing $600,000 to address several of these recommendations, including professional development in the science of reading, math, and Responsive Classroom; additional assessment programs and classroom resources in reading and math; staffing that enhances data coaching capabilities; and the expansion of staff and student mentors.

“These SOL results and the audit recommendations provide clear indicators for where we are currently concentrating our efforts,” said Dr. Patrick McLaughlin, the division’s Assistant Superintendent for Strategic Planning. “Moving up a few percentage points in a few categories is not enough. These pass rates and the learning outcomes they represent need to be uniformly strong across all demographic groups in all subjects. That is how achievement gaps finally will be eliminated,” he said.

One recommendation already in place is the institution of quarterly assessments that make it possible for teachers and principals to put “just-in-time” support measures in place for students who are struggling. Previously, the division conducted assessments twice a year.

“Our first assessment of student progress now will come next month, instead of in the next calendar year. It allows us to move more quickly and to be more targeted in providing students with the individualized instructional support that makes a difference in their performance,” McLaughlin said.

More broadly, division-level administrators have been divided into teams to plan, implement and monitor one or more of the audit recommendations. Assistant superintendents are serving as project sponsors, supporting the recruitment of additional stakeholders and providing guidance for the projects and their strategic alignment.

To expand and diversify input into how best to move forward, the division is forming several steering teams of teachers, parents and administrators for reading, math, professional development, and community outreach. It also is organizing an adoption committee for curricula that will have similar representation.

Annually, each school and department is required to create and post a strategic plan that aligns with the division’s strategic plan. This fall, schools and departments must detail how they are incorporating the recommendations of the instructional audit into their operations.

In the near future, the Virginia Department of Education will release accreditation ratings for each school in the division. Accreditation ratings reflect not only the number of students who passed SOL tests, but also the number of students who showed significant growth during the course of the school year. The division is anticipating that 21 of 24 schools will be accredited and that three schools will be accredited with conditions. This would be an improvement over the last school year when four schools were accredited with conditions.

Division and school-specific SOL test results are available by clicking on the “Assessments” tab of the Albemarle County Public Schools Quality Profile.

CONTACT: Phil Giaramita, Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Officer
PHONE: 434-972-4049