More on PWC 2009 SOL Scores

The state breaks SOL rates into a number of categories – All, Male and Female, LEP and Not LEP, Economically Disadvantaged and Not Economically Disadvantaged, and others.

Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students are required to take the Math SOL and to have their scores aggregated into the overall (All) scores for the school they attend. LEP student’s scores are not aggregated for English, Science, or History. Because so much of the exam is language dependent, the state allows school districts to use an alternate assessment, the VGLA, for some LEP students.

About 76.5% of PWC elementary students are English proficient while 23.5% have limited english proficiency (LEP).  In the Spring of 2009 PWCS increased the percentage of LEP students tested with the VGLA. Because of the increased use of the VGLA and the shifting LEP population at some schools, it is difficult to note trends in pass or advanced rates when examining the overall rates for a given school.

In order to  eliminate that variability, rather than examine the overall rates for PWC, we examined pass and advanced pass rates for the English Proficient and LEP students as separate populations. We looked at pass and advanced pass rates for those populations on a year by year basis to see if we could spot trends and on a cohort, or class, basis.  We also compared PWC’s rates to those state-wide and in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties to see if trends were unique to PWC or occurring in our neighboring jurisdictions.

Our analysis is below.

Several points stood out when we examined year by year rates for PWC.  Note that Grades 3 & 4 had Investigations mandated county-wide in 2009 while Grade 5 continued to follow the old program.

For Limited English Proficiency Students (approximately 23.5% of PWC’s elementary student population):

  • Pass and advanced pass rates in Grades 3, 4, and 5 in PWC exceed Loudoun and Fairfax.
  • Pass and advanced pass rates for Grade 3 have almost rebounded to pre-Investigations levels.  Whether that rebound is due to increased use of the VGLA or experience with Investigations can not be determined.
  • Pass rates for Grade 4 declined slightly in 2009.
  • Grade 5 pass rates increased and are within a few percent of Not LEP students.

For English Proficient or Not LEP Students (approximately 76.5% of the PWC elementary student population):

  • Grade 3 pass rates dropped 1% overall.  While a few schools have seen increases, Grade 3 pass rates are generally either unchanged or down since Investigations was mandated.
  • Grade 3 pass advanced rates dropped 3%.  For almost every school in the county Grade 3 pass advanced rates are declining and have continued to decline since Investigations was mandated.  The downward trend in pass advanced rates in PWC is not evident in Fairfax or Loudoun.
  • Grade 4 pass and advanced pass rates were increasing before Investigations was mandated and increased slightly after Investigations was mandated.
  • Grade 5 pass and advanced pass rates continue to increase.
  • Grade 3 and Grade 4 pass and advanced pass rates in PWC continue lag behind those in Loudoun and Fairfax.   Grade 4 pass advanced rates in PWC are 6 – 8% lower than in Fairfax and Loudoun.
  • Grade 5 pass and advanced pass rates are below the rates achieved in Loudoun and above the rates achieved in Fairfax.

The file containing the scores can be found in PWC 2009 SOL trends.

A more detailed analysis is below.

Grade 3 Rates

Grade 3 Not LEP students pass rates dropped 1% in PWC this year.  Grade 3 Not LEP pass rates also dropped 1% in Fairfax, but now in Loudoun.  On a school by school basis, Grade 3 pass rates are generally down or unchanged since Investigations was mandated – only a few schools have seen their Not LEP pass rates increase.

Grade 3 LEP students  pass rates increased 3% and rebounded back to pre-Investigations levels.  They continue to exceed the rates achieved in both Fairfax and Loudoun.  We can not determine whether the increase is due to the increased use of the VGLA in PWC for LEP students or greater familiarity with Investigations.

For both Not LEP and LEP  students the decline in the Grade 3 pass advanced rates is overwhelmingly evident.  Some schools  have declines in the percentage of students achieving an advanced score of  more than 10 – 20% since 2005 or 2006.

In some schools the downward trend began in 2006 or 2007, prior to the county-wide Investigations mandate.  However, once Investigations was mandated county-wide, it did not reverse or stall those downward trends and, except for a few instances, advanced pass rates have continued to decline since Investigations was mandated.

This consistent downward trend in Grade 3 pass advanced rates is not reflected in either Loudoun or Fairfax Counties.

Grade 4 Rates

Grade 4 pass and advanced pass rates for LEP and Not LEP students have been increasing since the test was mandated state-wide in 2006 –  in the state and in PW, Fairfax, and Loudoun Counties.

Pass rates for Grade 4 LEP students in PWC dropped 3% in 2009, though they continue to exceed the pass rates achieved by LEP students in Loudoun and Fairfax. Advanced pass rates for LEP students dropped 2%, and are now below rates achieved in Fairfax but above the rates achieved in Loudoun.

Pass rates of Not LEP students in PWC increased 2% in 2009 and pass advanced rates increased 4%, as they did state-wide and in Loudoun and Fairfax.   Despite increasing, pass and advanced rates for PWC Grade 4 Not LEP students continue to lag behind both Loudoun and Fairfax.

Grade 5 Rates

The 2009 Fifth grade students were the last non-Investigations grade in PWC schools.  PWC’s Grade 5 pass and advanced pass rates appear to be strong and getting stronger for both LEP and Not LEP students.

While PWC trails behind Loudoun in the percentage of Grade 5 Not LEP students achieving a pass or pass advance score, both rates are tied or higher than Fairfax.  PWC LEP pass and advanced pass rates are close to the rates achieved by Not LEP students.

Cohort Rates

A cohort is a group of students that moves from grade to grade.  For instance, a cohort would be the group of PWC students who were in Grade 3 in 2006, Grade 4 in 2007, and Grade 5 in 2008.

On a cohort basis it appears that pass and advanced pass rates drop slightly from Grade 3 to Grade 4 and then rebound back to Grade 3, or higher, levels in Grade 5.  This trend is evident state-wide and in PW, Fairfax, and Loudoun Counties. It’s not clear whether the drop in pass and advanced pass rates from Grade 3 to Grade 4 is due to the newness or difficulty of the Grade 4 test.

In PWC, while pass rates from Grade 3 to Grade 4 did drop 1% and pass advanced rates did drop 2% in the first Investigations group of students, because that trend is duplicated state wide and in Loudoun and Fairfax, we can’t reach any conclusions about whether that drop is an expected drop or a drop due to Investigations.

Analysis for each school in the county will be available shortly.

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3 Responses to “More on PWC 2009 SOL Scores”

  1. Maria Allen Says:

    I am part of a newly formed coalition of Fairfax County parents who share many of your frustrations with regard to our school system. You mentioned briefly that the increase in number of VGLA alternative tests is making in difficult to analyze your SOL data. In fact, VGLA has rendered the data meaningless in my school division and in yours. Last year, PWCS gave over 3000 VGLA “exams” up from 1500 the year before, and 100 the year before that. In Fairfax County where 9000 VGLA’s were administered, the average pass rate for VGLA’s is 100%. I suspect the same is true in PWCS, and that is why the number has increased so rapidly. How is it possible that 100% of the special education and non-English speaking children passed the most commonly given tests in reading? VGLA’s aren’t tests at all. They are laborious collections of “evidence” collected by the child’s teacher and scored by someone within the same county. What could be better? Each of these these 3000 or so VGLAs eats up at least 10 hours (very conservative) of teacher time, which is the equivalent of about 15 full time teacher positions for you and 45 for us. We can’t afford this and I bet you can’t either. If you want more on this, email me. I’d be happy to share what I know.

  2. pwceducationreform Says:

    When we did out analysis, because of the increased use of the VGLA for LEP students in PWCS, we pulled the DOE data for LEP and Not LEP students. While the LEP analysis is pretty much useless we felt the Not LEP data was still valuable as most of those students were tested under the SOL.

  3. Anon Lady Says:

    Have you done an analysis of the African-American subgroup pre- and post-Investigations? One of the claims by the math department in favor of Investigations is that African Americans learn better through the Investigations method. If that’s true, their scores should be on the rise. Any data on that?

    Thanks for the work you’re doing!


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