"Manassas Park students were not immune to the drastically lower scores on the Standards of Learning (SOL) math tests administered this year across Virginia—lower scores school officials from the department of education on down are blaming on the more strenuous test given for the first time last school year.
Manassas Park City Schools administrators made it abundantly clear during their accountability presentation at Tuesday’s city council meeting that the new tests were a lot tougher and accounted for, in some cases, more than a 30-point drop from last year’s scores.
The 2011-2012 school year was the year for the new mathematics standards and the new mathematics test in Virginia.
Manassas Park third-graders, who are now fourth-graders at Manassas Park Elementary School, experienced the biggest decrease in scores from last year, according to school division and Virginia Department of Education data.
During the 2010-2011 school year, 91 percent of the third grade passed the SOL math test. This year, 53 percent passed.
“That was a bear of a test, folks,” Dr. Bruce McDade, superintendent of schools, told council Tuesday. “It was a long test, too. We had kids that stayed beyond the bell. They started at 8:30 in the morning; they were still taking the test at 3:30 in the afternoon.”
“These were multi-step problems that had to be solved that, in many cases, used technology-enhanced items. The children had to manipulate graphs and bars to find the correct answers,” McDade said. “Our teachers, because it is a new test, did not have a test on which to practice—the children were not exposed to the new format. This is not a Manassas Park phenomenon, this is right across the Commonwealth. We were no different.”
The following compares Manassas Park City Schools latests scores with of Virginia and the school division’s 2010-2011 scores:
Manassas Park 2011-2012
Manassas Park 2010-2011
State mathematics scores fell from a 87 percent to a 68 percent pass rate since the new test and standards debuted, according to state department of education data.
“What matters now is where we go from here,” Virginia Superintendent of Education Dr. Patricia Wright said in a release earlier this month. “At the state level, we must set aggressive, but attainable annual objectives for narrowing and ultimately closing these achievement gaps.”
At the local level, Wright said instructional leaders must make sure that teaching in the classroom is aligned with the new standards and that the focus must shift from "test prep" to increasing the ability of students to apply their knowledge of mathematics and solve multi-step problems.
One of the highlights in the area of foundering math scores is the performance of Manassas Park Middle School students on SOL testing in that subject area.
“MPMS did very well in math,” McDade told council.
Eighty percent of Manassas Park Middle School students passed the SOL mathematics test, according to data.
Eighty-eight percent of sixth grade students passed the math portion of the SOL, up from 79 percent last year.
But only 51 percent of eighth graders at Manassas Park Middle passed the math SOL this year; last year 85 percent passed. The Virginia state average is 60 percent. Seventh graders as a whole do not take math SOL tests, but some seventh graders do take the eighth grade test and are counted in those numbers, administrators said.
McDade said administrators have a plan in place for dealing with Geometry and Algebra II test scores at Manassas Park High School, where only 53 and 55 percent of the students passed the End-of-course assessment this spring, respectively.
During the 2010-2011 school year 82 percent passed Geometry and 70 percent passed the Algebra II End of Year assessment, according to division data. On the state level this year, 75 percent of students passed the Geometry assessment while 69 percent passed the Algebra II assessment.
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