A letter to parents from Wakefield principal Chris Willmore said that on May 30 and 31, students had to move examination rooms after two-and-a-half hours of taking a test that does not have a time limit.
But, Willmore said, some students began talking while moving to the new testing area. Willmore said staff immediately reported what happened to the Virginia Department of Education, but a VDOE spokesman challenged that assertion and said it was reported after regular business hours on June 8. VDOE decided earlier this week that students had to re-sit.
Those re-sits took place yesterday and today. An Arlington Public Schools spokeswoman said around 280 students were affected.
Willmore’s full letter is below.
Dear Wakefield Families:
I am writing to let you know about an irregularity that we experienced during Standards of Learning (SOL) testing a week ago that affects your student. As you may know, some SOL tests have no time limits which means students may take as long as they need to complete the test. During SOL testing on May 30 and 31, some students needed more than the two and a half hours that had been scheduled in the rooms where they were taking tests. Although the state allows schools to move students to another location when this occurs, we experienced some talking among students while they were moving. Because talking is not allowed when students are regrouped, the APS staff who were serving as the Wakefield testing monitors immediately reported this “testing irregularity” to the APS Office of Planning and Evaluation staff who alerted the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) as required.
Although this was reported to VDOE a week ago, we did not learn until yesterday afternoon that the state has decided to void all of the student scores for these tests because of the irregularity. This means that your student is among the group of students who will need to retake an SOL test.
The SOL retakes will be given on Thursday and Friday this week. Students will be informed by their classroom teacher today about the retake. For those students who have a final exam during the time when they need to retake the SOL test, they will be excused from their final exam and their final grade will be calculated using the fourth marking period grades. Also, because Friday is an early release day, for those students who need more time, regular transportation will be available in the afternoon at our normal dismissal time.
Finally and most importantly, I want to sincerely apologize to all of our Wakefield students and families for this error. We have had an amazing year with great progress and achievement and I regret that we have experienced this mistake during our administration of some tests this year. Please know that we will do everything possible to support our students and help them finish the year successfully.
Chris Willmore, Principal
In a second letter sent Thursday, Willmore took full responsibility, and urged parents not to contact VDOE with their concerns, but him.
Yesterday, we learned that Wakefield parents and staff have been contacting VDOE about the need to retest some students. I need to urge you again to instead direct your concerns to me. For those I have already spoken with, I appreciate the time you have taken to share your thoughts and feelings about what has happened.
In the end, Wakefield is required to follow the procedures set in place for all schools by the state and, unfortunately, that did not happen this year. I want to assure everyone that we will implement a corrective action plan so we learn from this year’s testing difficulties and can ensure that this type of irregularity does not occur again.
An anonymous tipster said students that needed to re-take the tests had been put at a significant disadvantage, and they called on the Virginia Department of Education to let their scores stand.
“They’ve been away from the subject for two-three weeks, putting them at a distinct disadvantage,” the tipster wrote. “Someone should put pressure on the state to let the scores stand.”
The APS spokeswoman said an irregularity during a test can be defined in any number of ways, and that staff are trained to report anything that happens.
“[A] ‘testing irregularity’ is anything that happens outside the norm,” the spokeswoman said. “A student getting sick and throwing up during the test is an ‘irregularity’ and test scores are thrown out by the state for the class. Same thing if there’s a fire alarm or power outage. We have monitors in all schools during testing who must share anything that occurs with our head of testing and, then our head of testing reports that to the state.”
That’s the latest from APS, which reported today its average combined SAT score in 2016 fell 19 points, to 1,661. APS Students achieved an average combined score of 1,680 last year.
Despite the drop, however, the newest numbers still easily beat the Virginia average score of 1,535 and national average score of 1,484 in 2016. The latest average score also exceeds what APS students achieved in 2014 by eight points.
“Our students continue to have a proven track record of exceptional performance on the SAT that far exceeds their peers around the country,” Superintendent Dr. Pat Murphy said in a press release. “We are very proud of their success and their level of preparation for post-secondary opportunities.”
Year-over-year, mean APS SAT scores fell three points in reading, eight points in writing and seven points in math.
Additionally, “results for APS black and white students also exceed the peers in Virginia and the nation by large margins,” the school system noted in its release.
“I am grateful for the leadership of our principals and the support from our teachers and counselors who helped to prepare our students well to achieve these impressive results,” Murphy added. “Our congratulations go out to our students and their families for successfully completing this important step to achieving their post-secondary pursuits.”
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APS reported Thursday that its average SAT score in 2015 rose 27 points, to 1,680. The average score on the ACT, another standardized test, also rose.
“I am extremely proud of these results and appreciate the team effort and close collaboration by everyone to support our students,” Superintendent Dr. Pat Murphy said in a press release. “In recent years, we have focused on academic planning through our Aspire2Excellence efforts, and it is clear that our students are stretching themselves in their academic choices as they move toward future college and career pursuits.”
Over the past five years, APS SAT scores have increased 18 points in reading, 16 points in writing and 18 points in math.
The average APS SAT test score of 1,680 well exceeded the Virginia average of 1,533 and the U.S. average of 1,490. Results for black, hispanic and white students “exceed the peers in Virginia by large margins,” APS noted.
The results stand in contrast to another major local school system, Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. The average SAT score for Montgomery County students dropped 21 points in 2015, Bethesda Magazine reported.
“I applaud and recognize the commitment of our teachers and school leaders,” Murphy said of Arlington’s test results. “I appreciate the critical support that is provided by our families to ensure that all students excel and realize their full potential.”
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The average SAT score for students in Arlington Public Schools increased last year, as did participation in SAT and ACT college preparedness testing.
According to data from Arlington Public Schools and SAT and ACT’s test administrators, 77.9 percent of APS grads took at least one of the two tests this year, up from 66.9 percent five years ago. The improvement was even more dramatic among black and Hispanic students, with participation increases of 17.1 and 12.9 percent respectively.
Students with disabilities saw the biggest jump in participation: In 2009, just 30.4 percent of students with disabilities took the tests; last year, 69.9 percent took one or both tests.
Arlington students averaged a combined 1,652 points on the three SAT sections — reading, math and writing — which is a 30-point increase since 2009 and 123 points higher than the statewide average. All racial groups saw increases in their scores, but the achievement gap has not been closed: white students had an average SAT score of 1,813 in 2014, while black students’ average score was 1,373 and the score for Hispanics was 1,469.
“As we continue to focus on academic planning through our Aspire2Excellence efforts, it is rewarding to see more and more of our students stretching themselves with their academic goals and moving toward future college and career pursuits,” Superintendent Patrick Murphy said in a press release. “I applaud and recognize the commitment of our instructional staff to ensure that students are well-prepared for these important steps, and I appreciate the critical support that is provided by our families and administrators to ensure that all students excel and realize their full potential.”
Thirty percent of on-time APS graduates took the ACT test, with a composite score of 25.2 out of 36, above the state average of 22.3 and the national average of 21.
Arlington Public Schools released its 2013 Standards of Learning (SOL) test results in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) release of the statewide results. Although Arlington students performed better than their peers in most categories, they joined students across the state in a significant drop in English reading scores.
Arlington’s Grade 8 English reading pass rate this year is 77 percent, compared with 71 percent for all of Virginia. However, Arlington’s 8th graders scored a 90 percent pass rate last year.
A likely explanation for the local and statewide drop in English scores is the introduction of a more rigorous exam. The VDOE’s website says:
“The English and science SOL tests students took during 2012-2013 were the first to reflect the increased rigor of revised standards adopted in these subject areas by the Board of Education in 2010. Last year also marked the debut of online SOL writing tests, although all schools participated in a statewide field test of the assessments during 2011-2012. As expected, pass rates on the new tests were lower than in 2011-2012 on the now-retired assessments based on the 2002 English SOL and 2003 Science SOL.”
After reviewing the results, Arlington Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy said, “As we continue to focus on the goals outlined in our Strategic Plan, these results serve as a barometer for our work and progress at this point. It is clear that our instructional team is working to meet these higher standards to ensure that our students master the new, more challenging expectations. While work remains to ensure that all students are succeeding at all levels, these results are encouraging.”
Last year, similar drops were seen on math scores with the implementation of a more difficult math test. Math scores held relatively steady this year, with 8th graders scoring 67 percent, compared with 68 last year. This year’s 8th graders around the state scored 61 percent.
The SAT scores of Arlington Public School students rose significantly this year, with the biggest gains experienced among minority students. While Arlington students gained, the average SAT scores on a state and national level remained flat.
On a scale from 200 to 800 points, Arlington seniors scored an average of 555 points on the reading portion of the exam, up 14 points from a year prior and 54 points above the national average. Scores on the writing exam were up 17 points to 538, 46 points above the national average. The average of 564 points scored on the math exam was up 16 points from last year and was 48 points above the national average.
Every ethnic group performed better in every category this year. Asian students posted double digit gains in all three categories. Hispanic and Black students posted double digit gains in two categories. White students posted single digit gains in all three categories. There was no significant difference in gains by gender.
“While we monitor many other performance measures, I am pleased to see that our students increasingly outpace their peers across the state and the nation on the SATs,” said Arlington Public Schools superintendent Dr. Pat Murphy. “While state and national averages remain relatively flat, our 2010 seniors experienced double-digit increases in reading, writing and mathematics. I congratulate our students for these impressive results.”
“I am also pleased to see these increases in performance among students of all ethnic and racial groups,” Dr. Murphy continued. “This indicates that students from diverse backgrounds are taking the important steps necessary to prepare themselves for future academic pursuits.”
Arlington’s cumulative average is four points higher than Montgomery County public schools and seven points higher than Fairfax County schools. Scores in Fairfax, the region’s largest school system, were flat compared to last year, according to the Washington Post.
APS students also outperformed their state and national peers on the ACT college entrance exams.
Arlington Public Schools were among the
40 91 percent of school districts in Virginia that failed to meet the Adequate Yearly Progress objectives set under the No Child Left Behind Act this year. Arlington also failed to meet AYP objectives last year.
This year, 16 Arlington schools met federal AYP targets — down one from last year. The remaining 14 schools failed to meet AYP.
The neighboring Falls Church and Alexandria City school systems also failed to meet AYP. Fairfax County was the only school system in Northern Virginia to get a passing grade.
In announcing the results, the school system cited overall progress in several areas, including reading and math.
“This year’s results include several promising trends in academic achievement,” superintendent Dr. Pat Murphy said in a statement. “Improving student achievement requires tremendous dedication by everyone, and I commend our team of dedicated professionals for their continued commitment and effort to support our students.”
“As we prepare for the 2010–11 school year, we will build changes and improvements in our instructional program,” Dr. Murphy said. “This work begins with analysis of these results to determine what changes and adjustments should be made to ensure that our students attain greater success in the coming year.”
Several AYP benchmarks were made more stringent this year, according to a press release from the Virginia Department of Education.
The results cited by the state are preliminary and may change when the final analysis comes out in September, the school system cautioned.