The overall pass rates for the Spring 2012 SOL exams have been released and the results provide some insight into how well our children are performing relative to their peers at other schools and in other school divisions. Here are the good, the bad, and the ugly……
The Good: PWCS continues to pass a greater percentage of students overall than the state average on many SOL exams, with most of those better than state averages occurring in grades K – 8. Grade 3 reading pass rates, after declining for several years in a row, increased. K – 8 Reading, Writing, Science, and Math pass rates continue to exceed state averages.
The Bad: Of the 10 High School subjects topics tested at the state level, PWCS only exceeds state averages in 3 : Geography, US & Virginia History, and World History I. Since 2007 PWCS has been at or below state averages in Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and World History II, as this file demonstrates (High School – VA to PWCS).
The Ugly: When compared with overall pass rates from surrounding school divisions (Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun, Manassas, Manassas Park, and Stafford), PWCS is among the lowest performing divisions – generally competing with Manassas or Manassas Park for the lowest overall pass rates in almost every subject. Demographics, particularly the percentage of economically disadvantaged students, may play a role here, but the state hasn’t released demographic data, yet, so we can’t ascertain what role it plays. Once that data has been released, we’ll report on it and let you know how ugly the ugly is.
What can we conclude?
All is not well in PWCS. While PWCS passes more students than the state average on many K – 8 exams, I’m not sure doing average for the state is how I’d define a “World Class School System”. When combined with our SAT scores, which lag behind both US and State averages, PWCS is in need of improvement – especially in High School level Math.
Unfortunately in the past PWCS has been more intent on selectively reporting “success” than on openly and honestly admitting where problems exist and proposing solutions to those problems outside of spending more money on Smart Boards and other “technology”. That will continue unless our school division leaders demand honest and complete reporting of test scores from the school division. We don’t present test score data to shame individual schools or demoralize our teachers. We present that data so that our citizens know the full truth about PWCS’ performance and, hopefully, will demand better from our school division and our children’s schools.
One note: PWCS, as it always does, will ignore our numbers and analysis because they say they don’t know where we got our numbers. We got our numbers from the VA DOE’s searchable database of assessment data which you can find here and the excel spreadsheet of 2011 & 2012 test score data the VA DOE released on August 14, 2012. If PWCS’ data differs from ours, then PWCS needs to explain why their data, which comes from a PWCS database and not the VA DOE database, differs from the state data.