State test results present mixed bag to local school officials

State test results present mixed bag to local school officials

By Erich Wagner

While officials are pleased with recent progress at the embattled Jefferson-Houston School, newly released Standards of Learning test results suggest the institution will be denied — once again — state accreditation.

The Virginia Department of Education released preliminary district- and school-level standardized test results Tuesday. While math scores increased almost across the board in Alexandria, English test results lagged behind, which officials linked to a new, more rigorous exam on the subject.

Districtwide, the percentage of students testing proficient in English dropped from 82 percent to 67 percent between the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years. Minorities fared even worse: Black students’ proficiency declined from 77 percent to 58 percent, while Hispanic students fell from 75 percent to 55 percent.

Still, Alexandria City Public Schools saw modest gains in math: 63 percent of students tested proficient this year, compared with only 56 percent a year ago. That improvement carried through to the district’s minority population, with 53 percent of black students and 52 percent of Hispanic students testing proficient, up from 44 percent and 46 percent, respectively, last year.

And the system met all but one of its Annual Measurable Objectives, which are benchmarks that compare testing performances against previous years.

The only exception was math scores among students with disabilities, as only 32 percent passed as proficient compared with 27 percent last year.
Clinton Page, the executive director for accountability at ACPS, said it’s impossible to read anything into the drop in English scores because the new state-administered test is much more rigorous. He compared results to similar declines in math scores last year after a likewise change to that test.

“We’re viewing [reading scores] as the first year of the more rigorous assessment, as the start of a new trend line for both state and local divisions,” Page said. “We anticipate a similar level of improvement next year as we did this year in math.”

Superintendent Morton Sherman directed all questions about the new test scores to Page. School board chairwoman Karen A. Graf was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.

In a report that the school board will see today, Page said preliminary results suggest that 13 city schools will obtain full accreditation for the 2013-14 school year, while five schools — including four of the middle schools — will receive “accredited with warning” labels.
Jefferson-Houston School, which is operating under the spector of a potential state takeover, likely will not receive accreditation again.

But Page maintains Jefferson-Houston is showing early signs of progress. While the institution, like most other schools in Alexandria and across the state, dropped in reading scores — only 41 percent of students tested proficient compared with 61 percent last year — officials have seen marked improvements in math, with 50 percent of students deemed proficient compared to 35 percent last year.

Other schools that showed progress in math were John Adams Elementary with a 13-percentage point boost; Patrick Henry Elementary with a 21-point increase; James K. Polk Elementary with a 14-point rise; Samuel Tucker Elementary with a 24-point gain; and George Washington 1 Middle School with an 11-point uptick.

But Frances C. Hammond 1 and 2 middle schools lost ground in math. Only 54 percent of students at Frances Hammond 1 tested proficient, compared with 56 percent last year, while Frances Hammond 2 students dropped by 1 percentage point, from 56-percent proficient last year to 55 percent.