Virginia students struggle on new math tests

imageAs most Virginia educators had predicted, students across the state struggled with new math tests featuring more challenging content, according to results released this morning from the Virginia Department of Education

The data shows students’ performance during the 2011-12 school year on Standards of Learning tests in various subjects, including math. On the math tests, students adjusted to higher expectations and an emphasis on technology.

On the low end, 58 percent of students statewide passed grade seven math tests. Algebra I performance came out on top, with 75 percent of students passing across the state.

The Board of Education revised and strengthened Virginia’s mathematics standards in 2009 to ensure that Virginia public school students are prepared for the challenges of the first year of college or meaningful entry-level employment when they graduate from high school. Last year’s SOL mathematics tests were the first to reflect the increased rigor of the new standards.

The online mathematics SOL tests taken by most students included new technology-enhanced items designed to mirror common classroom experiences. The items also require students to apply mathematical knowledge in solving multistep problems. Technology-enhanced items made up about 15 percent of each online middle and high school test.

Statewide, 87 percent of the students who passed the new Algebra I SOL Test were successful on their first attempt, as were 86 percent who passed the Geometry test, and 88 percent who passed the Algebra II test. Twelve percent of students passing in Algebra I and Geometry succeeded on their second attempt, as did 13 percent of students who passed in Algebra II.

Most students who were unsuccessful on a new mathematics end-of-course test in 2011-2012 took the assessment two or three times. These students will have additional opportunities to prepare for retesting during 2012-2013.

Students had the most difficulty on the grade-3, grade-7 and grade-8 tests. The third-grade test no longer assesses K-2 content. The seventh-grade assessment includes additional content and concepts formerly taught and tested in grade 8. The increased rigor of the eighth-grade standards is designed to prepare students who were not ready for Algebra I in middle school to tackle the course during their freshman year.

Average pass rates in math ranged from 55 percent in Newport News and Hampton, to the highest rates at 78 percent in York County and Williamsburg-James City County. The latter two previously has pass rates in the 90s.

The state’s education department also released results from this year’s SOL tests in English, science and history. Locally, school districts’ average pass rates fluctuated only a few points in those subjects compared to last year.

Official accreditation results for individual schools as well as data on how subgroups did on tests at the state- district- and school-level won’t be released until next month.

Schools will be rated under a new set of standards called Annual Measurable Objectives instead of the previous federal benchmarks called Adequate Yearly Progress.

Here’s a look at how local districts did on this year’s SOL exams in math, English, science and history.

Williamsburg-James City County

  • Students in all tested grades scored an average of over 92 percent in reading. J. Blaine Blayton third grade students improved their pass rate by 17 percent.
  • Overall science performance continued to be strong, with pass rates ranging between 86 to 93 percent at the elementary level.
  • Students in all tested grades/subject areas scored better than the state average in math.

“I am especially pleased to note that all WJCC schools will be accredited once the state releases final accreditation ratings,” Steven Constantino, WJCC superintendent, said. “I also am glad to see continued growth in reading and sustained growth in elementary science.

“We knew that math scores would be negatively impacted by curriculum and test changes, but I am confident that our teachers and administrators are focused on providing the support and instruction that our students need to improve their performance on the tests next year,” Constantino said.

WJCC SOL Test-by-Test Scores

WJCC School SOL Test-by-Test Scores

Newport News

On average, 55.1 percent of students passed math tests this year in Newport News, a 25.5-point tumble from last year.

The lowest pass rate was in seventh-grade math at 33 percent. Students also struggled in eighth-grade math, with 44 percent passing. The best student performance was in sixth-grade math, with 68 percent passing. That’s just a one-point drop from last year.

Pass rates remained nearly unchanged in all other subjects, at 82.8 percent in English, 77.3 percent in history and 86.3 percent in science.


In Hampton, students struggled most on the seventh-grade math exam, with 26 percent passing. That’s 32 points below the state average and a 27-point drop from last year.

The next-lowest pass rate was 49 percent in eighth-grade math, a 28-point drop from last year. Students did best on the Algebra I exam, with 73 percent of students passing. On math tests overall, the average pass rate dropped from 78 percent to 55.5 percent.

Pass rates remains nearly identical in the other four subject areas, at 82.7 percent in English, 79.7 percent in history and 87.5 percent in science. Each changed 0.2 percent or less.

York County

York County students had little change in test performance this year, except for math. The average pass rate in math was 78.2 percent, a 14.5-point drop from last year.


Statewide, third-grade students seemed to have the most difficulty on the new math tests. Their pass rates dropped 27 percentage points, from 91 percent passing last year to 64 percent this year.

Meanwhile, sixth-grade students across the state actually improved on the new tests, posting a 74 percent pass rate compared with last year’s 73 percent.


Test results in the four subjects are used by the state to determine a school’s accreditation rating. Math and English performance is also a factor in whether schools meet federal testing goals.

The state plans to release official accreditation results and school-by-school performance on federal testing targets in September.


Discover more from Mr. Williamsburg

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading