Although Fairfax County Public Schools outperformed the Virginia average in its math, reading, science and social studies Standards of Learning pass rates, both state and local test scores show an increase in the gap between achievement among student subgroups in mathematics.
At the state level, the performance gap in math scores between the all-student average and black student performance went from 10 points during 2010-11 school year to 16 points in 2011-12. Fairfax County Public School students showed a similar trend, with county scores going from a nine- to 17-point disparity.
The gap between the average of all students and Hispanic students also grew in math. At the state level, the gap went from four to seven points, while county schools showed a gap increase from seven to 18 points.
The largest disparity in scores was among students with disabilities, where the math achievement gap on SOLs rose from 11 points to 28 points.
In other subject areas tested, the gap between subgroups and all-student averages showed signs of decrease or stability.
For example, in reading, black and Hispanic student pass rates rose, will the gap between these subgroups and the county average stayed at six and seven points, respectively.
“As far achievement gaps, reading achievement has continued to increase and the achievement gap has been reduced from 27 in 2002 to 10 in 2012,” said John Torre, county schools spokesman. “The drop in math scores was not unexpected. The decline is similar to what happened during the 2005-06 school year when math SOLs were added to grades four, six and seven but teachers and students met the challenge and test scores quickly rebounded in the following years. We expect the same turnaround in scores to occur again.”
School systems statewide reported struggles with the new math SOL standards that were rolled out this past school year. At the state and county levels, math SOL pass rates dropped. For the state, the scores dropped from an 87 percent to 68 percent. The county system showed a pass rate shift from 92 percent to 78 percent.
“The FCPS Program of Studies was realigned in 2011 to match the new math SOL assessments. In anticipation of the increased rigor of the standards, administrators and teachers received training on the new SOLs over the past year,” Torre said. “Resources such as lesson plans and pacing guides are currently aligned to the new curriculum. Additional training and resources will be provided to teachers throughout the school year. We are confident these ongoing efforts will result in increased student achievement.”
The state rolls out revised reading and science assessments this year, and the school system expects similar adjustments in reading and science scores once the new SOLs are implemented.
Regardless of what group a public school student falls into, county school officials said the goal is high attainment for all children.
“Fairfax strongly says that we reach pass rates of 90 percent for every group,” said Kathleen Oliver, Office of Student Testing director.