Preliminary results released from the Virginia Department of Education indicate Nelson County Public Schools has met the four core state benchmarks for the 2018-2019 school year, despite state changes to math tests in every grade and high school diploma requirements.

“We are very excited and proud of our staff and students,” Martha Eagle, Nelson County Public Schools superintendent, told the county board of supervisors on Aug.13.

Virginia students’ scores on last year’s Standards of Learning tests declined over all from the previous year, according to a news release from the Virginia Department of Education on Aug. 13.

VDOE said the results reflect changes in student test-taking patterns last year caused by revisions to the commonwealth’s diploma and school accountability standards, as well as the introduction of new mathematics tests in all grade levels.

Overall scores for all students in the NCPS division in four of the five subjects rose from last year. The reading pass rate increased from 72% to 75%. The overall science pass rate increased slightly from 81% to 83%. The overall history pass rate increased from 82% to 84%. The overall writing pass rate decreased slightly from 72% to 71%. The division scored higher than the Virginia state averages in math, science, and history. The overall math pass rate jumped from 78% to 86%, the highest math score of the Lynchburg- area school divisions.

On Aug. 19, Eagle said the math standards changed for the state this year and because of that, Virginia thought they would see a drastic decrease in math scores. Eagle said a few years ago, the English standards changed and because of that the state and NCPS saw a decline in English scores. For the division this year, that was not the case.

“We saw great improvement,” Eagle said.

Neighboring Amherst County Public Schools saw an increase in the overall math score as well.

Overall, each of the four schools in the NCPS division significantly improved pass rates in most of the required subjects.

At Rockfish River Elementary, scores improved drastically in all areas, especially in science which rose from a 74.5% pass rate to a 90.3% pass rate.

Principal Crystal Choate credits the success to the teachers, instructional aides, support staff, and students.

“It was a whole school effort,” Choate said.

Choate went on to say the teachers and staff implemented different teaching tactics to be able to clearly address any student that may need extra attention in one subject or another, focused on explaining to the students why they are learning each lesson, and fine-tuned ways of ensuring each class fully understood everything taught.

Choate said the school will continue focusing on improving the literacy program as an overarching school goal and on individual students who may not be meeting overall scores.

Tye River Elementary School also improved its overall pass rates from 2017-2018 in every subject. The overall pass rate jumped from 75.5% to 85.1% in math and from 72% to 83.5% in science.

“We have made some incredible growth,” Principal Marti Bradt said. “We are excited and proud.”

While Bradt reiterated official scores won’t be released until the end of September, these preliminary results indicate the school has met and passed all benchmarks.

“To know where we were two years ago; we didn’t meet 70% benchmark and now we are way above that. I attribute that all to very dedicated, hardworking staff, students, parents, and the community,” Bradt said. “Everyone has been rallying for Tye River for a while now and I knew we had it in us.”

The high school’s scores improved in every area compared to last year except science, dropping from 87.3% to 81%.

Principal Chris Sumner said he is very excited to see the school’s overall scores.

“They align with NCHS’s history of academic excellence. I’m very proud of our school and students. I’m also looking forward to continued success,” Sumner said in an email.

The majority of the middle school’s scores improved from the 2017-2018 school year, especially in mathematics where the pass rate increased from 77% to 87%. The overall writing pass rate dropped from 64.7% to 58.6%. In an email, Principal Roger Dunnick said he was overall pleased with the results.

“We have a couple of areas to focus on for this year, but we made major gains in other areas for the 2018-2019 school year. These improvements were in Math across the board and with gap groups in several areas,” Dunnick said in an email.

Dunnick went onto say the middle school will continue to improve the literacy program as part of the overall NCPS plan to improve the literacy program division wide.

Eagle said the division is still waiting for accreditation scores to be made available. Those should be released toward the end of September.

Reporter Shannon Keith contributed to this report.

Erin Conway covers Nelson County for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5524.

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