RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Data has been released on the performance of Virginia's students on Standards of Learning tests reflecting changes made in student test-taking patterns last year that resulted from revisions to meet the Commonwealth's revised diploma and school accountability standards.
SOLs assess students in reading, writing, mathematics, science and history.
According to a release, the overall pass rates for the five tests' content areas were about the same to the year before.
In reading, 78 percent of students passed in 2018-2019 compared to 79 percent of students in 2017-2018.
For English writing, 76 percent passed compared to 78 percent the year before.
New mathematics tests were introduced during the 2018-2019 school year, and 82 percent of students passed the new test, compared to 77 percent on the previous test administered in 2017-2018.
Eighty percent of students taking the history and social science test passed compared to 84 percent in 2017-2018.
For the science test, the percentage of students passing remains the same at 81 percent.
In 2017, the state Board of Education approved revisions to the Standards of Accreditation, which went into effect last year.
Revisions included reducing the number of SOL tests high school students had to take in order to graduate.
Under the revisions, students who meet the testing requirement in a content area dot not have to take another test on the same subject unless additional testing is required for the school to comply with federal testing requirements.
Before these revisions, high school students had to take an end-of-course test even if they had already earned the credits needed to graduate.
"The achievement in a school, a division, on in the Commonwealth as a whole must be viewed in the context of these changes in student test-taking patterns, standards and assessments," said Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane. "These changes were significant and performance on last year's SOL tests marks the beginning of new trend lines in mathematics."
He also says agency staff will work with school division to focus on improving reading skills for all students and to address widening achievement gaps in reading.
The concern here is mostly in the elementary grades, so DOE staff will work with schools and division that did not see declines in reading performances to identify best practices and successful strategies for improving reading schools in other divisions.
This effort will include a review of the effectiveness of interventions to help young readers who are not currently reading at grade level.
"The reading results underscore the importance of the Board of Education's current discussion about promoting equity, providing the assistance students need when they need it, by including early reading intervention in the Standards of Quality," said Board of Education President Daniel Gecker. "This would provide a dedicated state funding stream for reading specialists in elementary schools based in part on the percentage of students not reading on grade level by the end of the third grade."
The release says school divisions are currently required to provide reading intervention services to students in grades K-3 who demonstrate deficiencies on diagnostic tests.
However, the Standards of Quality do not mandate school divisions must provide reading specialists. Instead, the standards recommend one reading specialist be provided in each elementary school in a division at the discretion of the local school board.
For more information on the SOL scores for divisions during 2018-2019, including pass rates for schools, click on the link in the Related Links box.
The VDOE will announce the accreditation ratings for the 2019-2020 school year next month.