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Schools Mark Improvement on SOL Tests

Loudoun’s passing rate on the Standards of Learning (SOL) measures in at the mid- to high-80 percentile, according to a preliminary analysis of the unadjusted test scores from the 2001-02 tests.

The actual passing rate and the number of schools in the county receiving full or provisional accreditation will not be available until the Virginia Department of Education (DOE) adjusts test scores from the 27 tests taken by Loudoun students. In the meantime, school officials are saying they are pleased with the results.

“The results look good, and it looks like there was improvement,” said Joseph Vogric, School Board chairman. “We need to see what we’re doing right and see what we need to work [on] a little more.”

LOUDOUN SCHOOLS RANK fourth of the 15 school divisions in Northern Virginia on most of the SOL tests. Loudoun exceeded the state average on 25 of 27 tests, with one of the tests matching the state average and another test scoring less than 1 percent of the state.

“The whole state is up and we’re up a great deal,” said Wayde Byard, school press officer. “We feel very comfortable with that.”

In Loudoun, test scores increased from a year ago on 19 of 25 SOL tests given to students, while the scores from the other six tests did not drop more than 2.9 points. Schools statewide are required to have 70 percent of students pass the SOL tests to receive full accreditation. Schools not meeting the requirement receive provisional accreditation if test scores show improvement from the previous year.

“A little bit of fluctuation like that is likely to happen. We test different groups of kids each year,” said Sharon Ackerman, assistant superintendent for instruction. “Overall, these are really good gains, even though the little slippage isn’t anything to be greatly concerned about.”

SOL TESTS are administered to students in the third, fifth and eighth grades and in high school in a variety of subjects including English, mathematics, science and social sciences. In Loudoun, four of the SOL tests were given to third-graders, five to fifth-graders, five to 11th-graders and 11 as end-of-course tests for 12th-graders.

“We are getting better and better each year as we have more experience with the SOL tests,” Ackerman said. “We are getting better at identifying what individual students are weak in.”

Loudoun schools recently implemented several SOL remediation programs and the Early Back program to bring identified students into school for two to three weeks of extra instruction before school starts.

“We continue to make sure our curriculum is aligned with the standards of learning,” Ackerman said, adding that the curriculum “includes the SOL, but that isn’t the curriculum for us. For the few test items, it’s pretty hard to teach to the test.”

“It shows overall that what we are doing with testing, tutoring techniques and teaching is paying off,” Byard said.

The SOL test results are unadjusted and have not been subjected to the 16 calculations used by the DOE for determining accreditation levels. The calculations exclude certain English as a Second Language (ESL) students and new students who have been in school 20 days or less. The DOE will release a list of accredited schools in November.

In 2004, students must pass certain SOL tests to graduate from high school. By 2006, schools are required to have 70 percent of students passing the SOL tests to receive school accreditation.

The Virginia Board of Education adopted the SOLs in June 1995.