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Thursday, August 23, 2007

FCPS Releases Preliminary 2006-07 SOL Data: Results Show Steady Gains by Students

Students in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) continue to show improvement on the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) tests and are passing with advanced proficiency in greater numbers—in some subjects at or over the 50 percent mark—according to 2006-07 preliminary data released today by the Virginia Department of Education. SOL tests are part of a long-standing Virginia program of educational accountability and, since 2002, have been used to determine adequate yearly progress (AYP) for schools and school divisions under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Despite SOL gains, FCPS will not, based on this preliminary data, make AYP this year.

“Since last year, FCPS students have made overall improvements on the SOLs in most areas,” says FCPS Superintendent Jack D. Dale. “We are seeing 31 to 68 percent of our students achieving at the advanced level on these tests, which demonstrates exceptional performance. However, it is common knowledge that NCLB is not an accurate indicator of whether or not a school is successfully educating its students. Missing one benchmark in just one of the 29 categories keeps a school from making AYP.” 

“Parents have told School Board members and me that they care primarily about how their individual child is learning, improving, and succeeding,” adds Dale. “In keeping with the School Board’s student achievement goals, we are focused on meeting each child’s educational needs, providing each with a well-rounded education, and ensuring that all students achieve their full academic potential.” 

The recently released SOL results also show that FCPS limited-English-proficient (LEP) students posted the lowest pass rates on their reading tests, which are administered in English. Students in levels 1 and 2 English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) classes who are just starting to learn English scored the lowest on the tests. As students progress through ESOL classes into levels 3 and 4 and their English skills improve, their pass rates rise significantly. Once students exit ESOL services, their pass rates on the SOLs are equivalent to those of native English speakers.

“These results indicate that when students are provided with skilled teachers and the appropriate resources, they demonstrate exceptional performance,” says Dale. “Learning a new language is an intensive process that takes time, patience, and a commitment from instructional personnel for these students to advance. Our record with these students further illustrates that all students can achieve success on these tests.”

Pass rates for SOL end-of-course tests, which high school students are required to pass in order to graduate, have risen in all categories over the past four years. The preliminary SOL results show that more than 55 percent of high school students achieved at the advanced level on their English-reading tests; on history tests, the percentage of students achieving at the advanced level range from 43 to 47 percent; and on math tests, between 31 and 37 percent of students achieve at the advanced level. 

The scores also show that achievement gaps between White and Black and White and Hispanic students continue to narrow, with the biggest improvement seen in end-of-course tests, where both the White-Black gap and the White-Hispanic gap decreased in 9 of 11 tests.

By law, any Title I school that did not make AYP for two consecutive years in the same subject is identified for improvement and faces sanctions. This year, two additional FCPS Title I schools are facing sanctions: Hybla Valley Elementary and Riverside Elementary.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education granted FCPS and six other school divisions in Virginia permission to offer supplemental educational services (SES) to Title I schools in the first year of school improvement under NCLB as part of a pilot program. This allows students to remain at their home schools to receive tutoring services and additional academic assistance rather than to transfer to a different school. These two additional schools will participate in the pilot program during the 2007-08 school year.

For a school to make AYP, it must meet or exceed achievement benchmarks in reading (73 percent, up from 69 percent in 2005-06) and mathematics (71 percent, up from 67 percent in 2005-06) by school and by subgroup; participation benchmarks (95 percent) by school and by subgroup; and other academic-indicator benchmarks in attendance or graduation rate. Alternatively, schools may make “safe harbor” by decreasing the failure rate in a category by at least 10 percent over the previous year. Schools are required to meet benchmarks in 29 categories; missing a single benchmark will result in a school not making AYP. AYP is calculated for all students as well as the following subgroups: students with disabilities, limited-English-proficient students, economically disadvantaged students, and major racial and ethnic groups. In many cases, the scores posted by these students are redundantly reported in multiple categories for their schools.

NCLB scoring is based on Virginia’s Standards of Learning (SOL) mathematics and English tests, which are also used to calculate state school accreditation. Because the tests are calculated differently for accreditation than for NCLB, NCLB results do not affect state accreditation. Accreditation data will be released by the state in the fall.

NCLB requires that 100 percent of public school students in the U.S. meet the NCLB standards by the year 2014. Interim standards are set individually by each state.

For more information about the Virginia report, visit the Virginia Department of Education web site, http://www.doe.virginia.gov/statistics_reports/school_report_card/index.shtml . For more information about the federal NCLB law, visit http://www2.ed.gov/nclb/landing.jhtml

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Note: For more information, contact Kathy Oliver at 703-208-7776 or kathy.oliver@fcps.edu.