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- Barbara Jackman, Executive Director - MHC Coalition for Health and Wellness
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SOL pass rates upped: Most students in city already meet them

October 29, 2010

By BULLETIN, AP REPORTS -

Most students in the Martinsville schools already are exceeding new annual pass rates for standardized reading and math tests that the Virginia Department of Education plans to implement for the next few years.

The state Board of Education on Thursday adopted an 82 percent pass rate for the Standards of Learning (SOLs) reading tests, as well as an 80 percent pass rate for the math tests, for the 2010-11 through 2012-13 school years.

Pam Heath, the city schools’ acting superintendent, said Thursday she had not yet been notified of the state board’s decision. But she said the higher pass rates will have to receive U.S. Department of Education approval before they become official.

The pass rates for the 2009-10 school year, which ended in June, were 81 percent for reading and 79 percent for math.

Heath is not worried about the pass rates rising for the current school year. During the past school year, city students overall scored 89.36 percent on reading exams and 84.78 percent on math exams, she said.

The challenge, she indicated, will be getting ready for 2013-14, when the state plans to raise the required pass rates for both tests to 100 percent. That is required under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

To try to reach 100 percent, Heath said, the schools will continue to focus on providing quality instruction, plus extra learning time and support services for students.

The schools also will continue to emphasize the need for young children to participate in early childhood programs, which will make them ready to learn after they enter kindergarten, she said.

Also, “we’ll keep up with the latest research into how the brain works” and incorporate it into teaching practices, she added.

Achieving a 100 percent pass rate always has been a goal for the city schools, Heath said.

“Is 100 percent realistic? If you don’t aim for 100 percent, you’re saying it’s acceptable to let students slip through the cracks,” she said. “Every child deserves to learn how to read and compute” (do math).

Already, certain subgroups of students have seen pass rates of 90 percent or higher, Heath noted, so 100 percent is “not an impossible goal.”

Required pass rates of 100 percent may not come to fruition, though.

Heath said No Child Left Behind, enacted by former President George W. Bush in 2001, awaits reauthorization. The Obama administration has proposed reworking it. Critics have said the law has failed to raise student achievement and close gaps among students of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.

“My prediction,” she said, “is that by the time 2013-14 gets here, the law will be changed in some way.”

One possible change, she said, is that No Child Left Behind will incorporate some type of factor that measures students’ progress at learning in a way other than standardized test scores.

Anthony Jackson, superintendent of the Henry County Schools, could not be reached for comment.

SOL benchmarks are used to hold public schools accountable for boosting all students’ academic performance, which is No Child Left Behind’s main goal.

For a school to pass muster, each student subgroup — examples are English learners and children with disabilities — must meet annual pass rates.

The state Department of Education plans to administer what it says are more rigorous math SOL tests in 2011-12, and tougher reading tests the following school year.

No Child Left Behind seeks to have all students, regardless of race, poverty level or disability, proficient in reading and math by 2014. It requires schools to show annual progress in test scores.

Its provisions mainly target schools and divisions that receive federal Title I funds for children from economically disadvantaged families.

To make annual benchmarks, schools must meet 29 separate objectives.

Basically, benchmarks are “annual measurable objectives” toward making Average Yearly Progress (AYP), Heath said.

AYP uses SOL data in math and reading to assess how groups of students, schools and school systems are performing.

Both the Henry County and Martinsville schools made AYP for the 2010-11 school year, even though each system had one school — Laurel Park Middle School in the county and Martinsville High School in the city — that did not make it.

As a result of making AYP, both systems are accredited under the SOLs for the current school year, according to school officials.




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