Fairfax County schools saw its scores on state standardized tests stagnate, according to data released Wednesday.
While county schools fared better than peers across the state on the 2013-14 Standards of Learning exams, they struggled to bounce back from the precipitous scoring drops of the previous year.
The 2012-13 school year brought the debut of new, more difficult exams in reading and science, with the goal of increasing students’ college and career readiness. The increased rigor led to decreased scores in both subjects.
The percentage of students who passed the reading and science tests dropped across the board that year, with a double-digit decline in pass rates on many exams.
While the 2013-14 results came with no dramatic declines in test scores, neither did they show notable increases.
Fairfax County typically surpasses statewide results, FCPS spokesman John Torre said, and that trend continued this year. The percentage of county students with passing scores exceeded the overall state pass rate on almost every test.
Still, Fairfax County joined nearly half of the state’s school divisions in experiencing a drop in its reading scores. Of the state’s 132 school districts, 64 saw overall reading scores drop.
Fairfax County saw its overall pass rate on SOL reading exams drop from 94 percent in 2011-12 school year, prior to the debut of the new test, to 82 percent in the 2012-13 school year. In the most recent results, the pass rate dropped slightly, to 81 percent.
The school system’s overall pass rates on science exams increased by 1 percentage point, to 84 percent, but only after dropping 8 percentage points last year.
County and state math scores improved. Pass rates climbed from 71 percent to 74 percent statewide, and from 79 percent to 81 percent in Fairfax.
New math tests were introduced the year before the new reading and science tests. State officials pointed to the increased percentage of students passing the math exams as proof that SOL test scores in all subjects will rebound with time.
“The statewide focus on teaching students to be problem solvers and to apply what they have learned in mathematics in real-life situations is producing results,” state Superintendent Steven Staples said in a statement.
Students in 110 of Virginia’s 132 school divisions improved their overall math performance.
“The emphasis of the entire SOL program has shifted,” Board of Education President Christian N. Braunlich said. “The board knew that, with 132 school divisions and more than 1,850 schools, meeting these expectations would be a multiyear process as teachers, principals and other educators align curriculum and pedagogy to the higher standards.”
Virginia’s SOL tests help education officials measure student achievement. They also determine schools’ state accreditation ratings. Schools do not receive full accreditation if pass rates in one or more subjects dip below required benchmarks.
State education officials warned earlier this month that nearly one-third of Virginia schools could be “accredited with warning” due to the stagnant reading and science scores. State accreditation ratings are scheduled to be released on Sept. 16, Virginia Department of Education spokesman Charles Pyle said.
Five years ago, less than 1 percent of state schools were accredited with warning. Of the 17 schools accredited with warning, none were in Fairfax County.
“The increase that we will see next month in the number of schools that fall short of the state’s accreditation standards must be viewed in the context of the higher standards and changing assessments,” Staples said.