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Roanoke County's scores on standards of learning tests were found to parallel those of similar districts.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
The Roanoke County School Board reviewed federal accountability and state accreditation data on Thursday, including how the division compares with similar districts.
Ben Williams, Roanoke County’s associate director of testing and remediation, said the system’s scores on Virginia’s Standards of Learning tests exceeded those of similar school systems, such as Albemarle, York and Hanover counties.
“When the tests are changing and being made more rigorous and scores as a result, at least in science and reading this year, went down as a consequence of that, how do we determine if we’re doing well?” Williams asked board members. “What we have to do is see how everyone else does.”
He said he pulled systems similar to Roanoke County by looking at, for example, district size and the number of students who qualify for free and reduced meals. What he found looking at the other systems was that Roanoke County had some lower scores in third grade, but the system was competitive and exceeded similar systems when looking at five years of testing data.
“Overall we are performing great,” Williams said.
During the past two months, the Virginia Department of Education has released data from SOL tests for schools and school systems across the commonwealth. SOL pass rates came out in August and last month the state released information on state accreditation and federal accountability.
During Thursday’s meeting, Williams highlighted how Roanoke County students performed when it came to the two different measures of achievement and what the county’s challenges were.
All the system’s schools made state accreditation. But Williams said four schools had to use a three-year average of scores to achieve the required pass rate because scores on the new English exams were lower and the needed pass rate higher.
“I’m confident we’ll be in good shape for next year,” he said.
When it came to federal accountability, what Williams called the “no backslide” provision caused issues for the school system. Known by state officials as the “maintain higher expectations” standard, it means a school’s scores must be as high as the previous year. So even if the school still meets the required pass rate it can’t have a score lower than the previous year.
The provision has frustrated area educators, including Williams, who said Thursday he has lobbied the state to change the stipulation.
For Roanoke County it caused nine schools not to meet all federal Annual Measurable Objectives. Even so, Williams explained those schools are not subject to any sanctions. Only the lowest performing schools in the state are subject to penalties if they don’t meet the federal standards.
“It’s very unlikely that our schools would end up in that group,” he said.
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