RCHS students SOL scores markedly up

With just one exception, Rappahannock County High School’s SOL scores are on the rise — significantly.

While the 2014-15 school budget took center stage at last week’s school board meeting, the board also heard a presentation from Carol Johnson, the division’s director of instruction, who detailed the many improvements in the results of last fall’s high school Standards of Learning tests.

The three RCHS students who earned perfect 600 scores on the SOLs, (from left) Brooke Athelli (algebra), Jon Streu (chemistry, geography) and Virginia Wyatt (physical science), pose with superintendent Donna Matthews (left) and chairman John Lesinski (right).Robin Bolt
The three RCHS students who earned perfect 600 scores on the SOLs, (from left) Brooke Athelli (algebra), Jon Streu (chemistry, geography) and Virginia Wyatt (physical science), pose with superintendent Donna Matthews (left) and chairman John Lesinski (right).

Every high school-level math class experienced a significant upswing, Johnson said, as grades in Algebra I and II and geometry improved by at least 10 percent. Geometry scores jumped almost 20 percent, Johnson said, as 92.3 percent of students passed this fall’s SOL — compared to only 72 percent last fall. Eighth-grade math, though not tested last year, came in at 94 percent, Johnson said.

Those improvements continued in the science courses, as physical science (89 percent) and earth science (90 percent) saw improvements of 3.1 and 9.7 percent, respectively.

Biology represented the only drop-off in test scores, Johnson said. It was also a rather steep decline, as only 75 percent of students achieved a passing grade, down nearly 18 percent from last fall’s 93 percent pass rate. While still above the state-mandated pass rate, Johnson said the decline would be addressed before next year’s test.

However, for the second straight year, every student passed the chemistry SOL, making chemistry teacher Dave Naser one of only two RCHS instructors to earn a 100 percent pass rate (the other being Sallie Shackleford’s geometry section). Naser achieved a 100 percent pass rate for the second straight year, Johnson said.

English and social studies also showed improvements, Johnson said, though in smaller percentages: EOC (end of course) reading (75.86) and writing (87.5 percent) tests were up 5 and 8 percent from fall 2012, respectively.

Teachers whose classes earned a 90-percent or higher pass rate on the SOLs were honored at the board’s meeting. Posing with superintendent Donna Matthews (left) and chairman John Lesinski (left) are (from left) Sallie Shackleford, Beth Gall, Mark Ramey, Dave Naser and (not pictured) Scott Stephens.Robin Bolt
Teachers whose classes earned a 90-percent or higher pass rate on the SOLs were honored at the board’s meeting. Posing with superintendent Donna Matthews (left) and chairman John Lesinski (left) are (from left) Sallie Shackleford, Beth Gall, Mark Ramey, Dave Naser and (not pictured) Scott Stephens.

Three history classes were also tested this year, Johnson said, though two of them weren’t tested last year, making a true comparison more difficult. Geography was up to 86 percent, Johnson said; because it counted as an elective class last year, scores for last year’s test were unavailable.

The same was true with World History II, as it also wasn’t tested last year; 90 percent passed this year’s SOL, however. Lastly, U.S. History experience neither growth nor decline, as it stayed steady at exactly 80 percent.

Johnson attributed the mostly across-the-board rise to several factors, including updated pacing guides and “unpacking the SOLs,” i.e. examining the tests in detail to determine not just which questions students may have missed, but why they missed them.

These are the same strategies, Johnson noted, that have been employed at the elementary school after it received its “accredited with warning” status in early September. Combined with teachers (and students) becoming more familiar with the recently readjusted tests, Johnson said she expects further improvements on future SOLs.

RCHS’ precipitous rising scores continued, as Johnson enthusiastically informed the board that three Rappahannock County High School students earned four 600s — a perfect score — on the fall SOLs. Brooke Athelli earned a 600 on the Algebra SOL, while Virginia Wyatt aced the physical science SOL. Jon Streu earned two perfect scores — one in geography and one in chemistry.

Five teachers were also honored, as each of their classes achieved at least a 90-percent pass rate on the fall tests: Scott Stephens (eighth-grade math), Naser (chemistry), Shackleford (geometry), Beth Gall (earth science) and Mark Ramey (World History II).

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