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Mecklenburg County schools see math test results decline

SoVaNow.com / August 21, 2013
Mecklenburg County schools landed near the bottom on math scores last year among 132 Virginia school divisions, the Virginia Department of Education reported this week.

The school that fared the worst in Mecklenburg was Bluestone Middle, where only 47 percent of students last school year passed their math SOL tests. The previous year, Bluestone Middle School’s math SOL passage rate for all students was 74 percent.

In addition, Bluestone Middle was the only school in the county that failed to keep up with benchmarks for progress for the school year, gaining an “accredited with warning” designation. According to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), schools with the designation must undergo academic reviews and are required to adopt and implement a three-year improvement plan to raise the achievement of students not meeting annual objectives. The new system — Annual Measurable Objectives, or AMO — replaces the Adequate Yearly Progress ratings under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

As a whole, Mecklenburg County Public Schools satisfied AMO requirements, but the division did so only by averaging math test results over a three-year period.

Superintendent of Schools James Thornton noted that Mecklenburg schools were not alone in witnessing a sharp drop in math pass rates after the SOL tests were revamped two years ago to be more rigorous.

“Many divisions only made the AMO in math with the three-year average,” Thornton said. He added, “The largest decline in scores with the new SOLs is in math across the state. The state DOE assures us that this does not mean that our children are learning less. The fact is, the tests are very rigorous. We will continue to work on problem solving skills and multiple step problems to better prepare our students.”

In addition to Mecklenburg, the lowest-scoring school districts in terms of SOL math results were Richmond City, Franklin City, Buena Vista, Charles City, Petersburg, Lynchburg, Covington County, Cumberland County, Sussex County and Lancaster County. The group also includes Nottoway, Brunswick and Lunenburg, each of which posted overall pass rates of 55 percent, identical to Mecklenburg.

Statewide, Virginia students improved their math performance during the 2012-2013 school year. 71 percent of students passed the mathematics assessment for their grade level or course, compared with 68 percent during 2011-2012.

In Mecklenburg only 55 percent of all students met the AMO standard for mathematics during the past school year. The state target was 61 percent.

Bluestone Middle School’s provisional accreditation raises to six the number of schools in Mecklenburg County subject to an improvement plan. The other five schools earned their “accredited with warning” tag in prior years. Last year’s test results indicate progress for Mecklenburg’s provisionally accredited schools in some areas — both county high schools improved on graduation rates, for instance — although math pass rates plunged across the board.

The testing data were inconclusive on the impact of Project Based Learning, a curriculum approach that Thornton has implemented at county schools. Project Based Learning, which emphasizes problem-solving skills, teamwork and critical thinking, has been in effect at the middle school level, but Thornton acknowledged that both students taking PBL classes and those enrolled in traditional math fell short of the standard. “PBL sixth grade math had an overall passage rate of 57 percent and traditional sixth grade math was 46 percent for the division,” he said.

Elsewhere in the region, Halifax County posted a 62 percent passage rate among all students taking the math SOL, and Charlotte County posted a 66 percent passage rate. Both counties met their AMO target for the 2012-2013 school year based upon test results for the year.

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Comments

Well well well, another great year at mcps with the dr thornton. its hard to believe that we can have such low sol scores when sooooo many making honor roll. could it be the the way he has forced the teachers to give percentages for grades??? 55% class particitation, 35% test, and 10% for attempting home work? Duh!!! show up for lunch, attempt home work and make 50's on test and you are an honor roll student!!! When no one is retained, and passed on, no program is going to work!

Comments

Hey Fred, why don't you stick to what you are good at, oh wait, you are.... Posting uneducated comments when you know nothing about what's going on in schools. Rather than complain about the schools why don't you partner up with them and help be part of the solution. My guess is you'd be no help...


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