Virginia students’ scores on the 2018-19 Standards of Learning tests declined overall compared to the previous year, according to Virginia Department of Education data released Tuesday.

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.

“The achievement in a school, a division or in the commonwealth as a whole must be viewed in the context of these changes in student test-taking patterns, standards and assessments,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said in a news release. “These changes were significant and performance on last year’s SOL tests marks the beginning of new trend lines in mathematics, science and history.”

School divisions in the counties of Amherst, Campbell, Nelson, Appomattox and Bedford as well as Lynchburg City Schools saw mixed results, improving in some areas while declining in others. Across the state scores declined in reading, writing and history and social sciences, while mathematics scores rose and scores in science remained the same. Statewide averages were 78 in reading, 76 in writing, 80 in history and social sciences, 82 in mathematics and 81 in science.

Although Lynchburg City Schools improved five points in mathematics — from a 68 to a 73 — the division’s scores went down in other areas. LCS earned a 69 in reading, down from last year’s score of 71; a 59 in writing, down from a 62 the previous year; a 70 in history and social sciences, down from last year’s score of 76; a 73 in mathematics, up from a 68; and a 70 in science, down from a 72.

“We are pleased to see the significant improvement in math and are proud of the hard work of our students and staff in this area,” a news release from the division said Tuesday. “Overall, the school division saw an increase from 68 to 73 in the pass rate in math, with 14 of our 16 schools remaining steady or increasing. This is particularly significant since the math SOL test for 2018-19 was a new assessment.”

LCS continued to struggle to close the achievement gap between minority and white students. For example, the disparity between black students’ scores and white students’ scores in writing remained unchanged compared to last year, with black students earning a division-wide average score of 46 and white students earning an 81. In reading, black students earned a 58 and white students earned an 87; in history and social sciences, black students earned a 65 and white students, 89; in mathematics, black students earned a 57 and white students, 82; and in science, black students in the division earned a 57 and white students, 88.

“Looking at subgroup data we saw steady or positive gains in all but five categories in reading, all but two categories in math and all but one category in science,” the release said. “This data allows us to identify specific subgroups of students with deficits. This helps us continue to better provide focused support and resources to the students in an effort to close achievement gaps.”

Appomattox County Public Schools saw scores above the state average in all subject matters except reading and was one of two divisions in the Lynchburg area to have all its students score 80 or higher in at least four subject areas. ACPS earned a 77 in reading, 81 in writing, 82 in history and social sciences, 84 in mathematics and 85 in science — compared to an 81 in reading, 84 in writing, 88 in history and social sciences, 82 in mathematics and 81 in science the previous school year.

ACPS Director of Curriculum and Instruction Amy Huskin said the division will continue to “look at the needs of every student.”

“Once again we’re just very proud of maintaining our fifth year of full accreditation for our school division,” Huskin said. “We’re super excited to have that in our reputation. Five straight years, we feel like we’re not sure how many school divisions can say that with high stakes accountability; we’re really proud of that.

“We always want to exceed our prior year,” she said. “We always have a growth mindset, and we’re always trying to achieve better than the year before.”

Huskin attributes the positive SOL scores to “the collective efforts of the community.”

“You can’t put your finger on any one thing,” Huskin said. “It’s the feeling in this town. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s about. It’s this whole place.”

Bedford County Public Schools saw scores for all students at or above the state average in all subject matters except mathematics and science and like ACPS had students scoring 80 or higher in at least four subject areas. The division earned an 81 in reading, 84 in writing, 85 in history and social sciences, 76 in mathematics and 82 in science.

BCPS saw test scores in reading, science and history and social sciences fall by one point, while scores in writing rose six points and scores in mathematics fell four points.

BCPS Superintendent Doug Schuch could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Scores in Campbell County Public Schools remain largely unchanged from last year. The division earned a 79 in reading, 73 in writing, 83 in history and social sciences, 84 in mathematics and 80 in science, which is a decrease of at least one point compared to last year in all subjects except writing — which fell by two points — and mathematics, which rose by five points.

“We’re pleased and very proud of our students and staff,” assistant superintendent Clayton Stanley said. “Based on our SOL scores we anticipate all of our schools being fully accredited next year.”

Stanley noted the division’s improvement in math, and the other areas where it ranked above the state average, like reading and history. He added the scores were consistent with last year, with only slight deviations.

“At the same time we’re going to work hard to improve, close achievement gaps and provide students with the best education possible,” Stanley said.

Nelson County Public Schools saw increases in test scores in reading, history and social sciences, mathematics and science while scores in writing fell by one point. NCPS earned a 75 in reading, 71 in writing, 84 in history and social sciences, 83 in science and 86 in mathematics, the highest math score Lynchburg-area school division.

At a school board meeting Aug. 8, NCPS Superintendent Martha Eagle commented on the improvements, stating the preliminary results indicated all four schools passed required test scores in math, reading, science and history.

“What it shows based on DOE data is that all four schools have met all benchmarks in those four areas of reading, math, science, and history,” Eagle said during the meeting. “It’s great news.”

Amherst County Public Schools earned a 78 in reading, 75 in writing, 77 in history and social sciences, 82 in mathematics and 79 in science. ACPS saw slight decreases in writing, history and social science and science scores, but saw a nine-point increase in mathematics scores. Reading scores remained unchanged.

Amherst County Public Schools Superintendent Rob Arnold said overall division officials are pleased with the results that indicate all of its schools will be fully accredited for the 2019-20 school year.

“We are extremely excited about our math results,” Arnold said. “As a school division, we improved 11% points in our math pass rates, which is amazing growth and is attributed to the focus of our dedicated professionals and the hard work of our great students.”

Dana Norman, director of academics for Amherst County Public Schools, said she is excited about the growth students have shown in the classroom and with math results well above the state average the division is heading in the right direction.

“I applaud all of our educators. It is a very difficult task to shift from one set of standards like we have done in the area of math this past year to another more rigorous set of standards while keeping student outcomes from dropping,” Norman said. “We have this same task ahead of us for the upcoming school year in the area of reading and have already begun laying the groundwork for that transition.”

Staff writers Justin Faulconer, Erin Conway and Sarah Honosky contributed to this report.

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Shannon Keith covers Bedford County for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5530.

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