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Achievement gap grows on Virginia's new math test

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Photo - The achievement gap for minority students grew on Virginia's new state math exam. (Getty Images)
The achievement gap for minority students grew on Virginia's new state math exam. (Getty Images)
Local,Virginia,Education,Lisa Gartner

Minority students saw the most significant drops in their math pass rates as Virginia introduced tougher standards to the Standards of Learning test this spring, according to results released by the state’s education department Wednesday.

The pass rate for all students fell by 21 percentage points to 68 percent last school year, but the impact was felt more significantly by Hispanic and African-American students:

• Black students’ pass rate fell from 77 percent to 52 percent, or 25 percentage points.

• Hispanic students’ pass rate fell from 83 percent to 61 percent, or 22 percentage points.

• Asian students’ pass rate fell from 95 percent to 87 percent, or 8 percentage points.

• White students’ pass rate fell from 90 percent to 75 percent, or 15 percentage points.

“What matters now is where we go from here,” Virginia Superintendent Patricia Wright said. “At the state level, we must set aggressive but attainable annual objectives for narrowing and ultimately closing these achievement gaps. At the local level, instructional leaders must make sure that teaching in the classroom is aligned with the new standards. The focus must shift from ‘test prep’ to increasing the ability of students to apply their knowledge of mathematics and solve multi-step problems.”

The gap was just as prevalent locally, and in some cases, bigger. While the pass rates for Fairfax County’s white students dropped 10 percentage points, the county’s black student pass rate fell 22 points and the Hispanic rate fell 25 points.

In Arlington County, the pass rate for white students budged from 94 percent to 91 percent while black and Hispanic students each saw double-digit drop.

Alexandria may have shown the starkest growth in the achievement gap, however. Only 44 percent of black students passed the math SOL test, down 29 percentage points from the previous year. The Hispanic pass rate also dropped from 73 percent to 46 percent, while white students dropped 12 points to an 82 percent pass rate.

Scores were expected to drop across the board on the new math tests, which contained tougher questions and engaged more of students' critical thinking skills.

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Lisa Gartner

Examiner Staff Writer - education
The Washington Examiner