This article was updated at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 22.
Statewide school test scores took a double-digit drop after a new, more rigorous reading and writing standardized test was given in the past year.
Across all age groups, high school to third grade, passing rates under the Standards of Learning exams dipped.
The largest drop statewide was in eighth-grade reading and writing, where scores fell by 18 points each.
In reading, the pass rate fell from 89 percent in 2011-12 to 71 percent in 2012-13 and in writing rates went from 88 percent to 70 percent pass rates.
While Fairfax County Public School students posted higher passing rates than the state average in reading and writing, the state’s largest system was not immune to the new exam’s impacts on scores.
Fourth-grade reading scores showed the greatest decline in passing rates for county students. Last year students posted a 93 percent pass rate. This year, pass rates for fourth-graders fell to 74 percent (a 19 point drop). At 74 percent, the Fairfax system remained above the 72 percent state rate.
Overall, county pass rates surpassed the statewide averages in all grade levels and subjects with the exception of fifth-grade science, which was four points lower than the state pass rate, according to the school system.
The Virginia Board of Education approved new English and science standards in 2010. The 2012-13 school year standardized exams reflect this increase in rigor, according to state and division school officials.
“Raising standards is difficult, but well worth the effort. We are asking students to meet higher expectations so that when they graduate, they will be ready for college and the work force,” Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright said in a prepared statement.
Students are also tested in science and social studies.
Wright voiced hope that state English scores would bounce back, following the trend of math pass rates after the Board of Education adopted more rigorous standards in math in 2009.
On Tuesday, the state Department of Education announced student math scores posted gains despite a difficult math standardized text, which was first administered in Fairfax County during the 2011-12 school year.
“We are pleased to see that math pass rates are up over last year when a new trend line for math was established,” said FCPS spokesman John Torre. “We expect a similar turnaround in reading, writing and science pass rates going forward.”
Statewide, 71 percent of students scored passing grades on their math assessments, a three-point increase from the previous years’ results.
“The improved performance of students on these challenging and innovative tests shows that we are moving in the right direction,” said Board of Education President David M. Foster in a statement. “The higher pass rates achieved by students in many rural, urban and suburban divisions suggest that the state board has not put the bar out of reach. I believe we would be selling our students short if we were to retreat by weakening the SOL program.”
Fairfax County, which has more than 180,000 students enrolled in what is widely considered one of the best school systems in the nation, also saw gains in math. County students first took the new math exam during the 2011-12 school year. Overall, county students saw slight increases in their math scores with the exception of Algebra I, where county pass rates shifted from 85 percent to 84 percent.