The Ed Week Virginia debate goes on and on
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- Subject: The Ed Week Virginia debate goes on and on
- From: PAVURSOL@aol.com
- Date: Fri, 13 Jun 2003 00:09:15 EDT
Now former Board of Ed president Schroder weighs in to the serial letter to
Standards, ExamTo the Editor:I read with amusement and disbelief the letter <A HREF="http://edweek.org/ew/ewstory.cfm?slug=37letter.h22#va"
"Virginia's Test Gives No Aid to At-Risk,"</A> published in your May 21, 2003
issue, from Mickey VanDerwerker, a member of the Bedford County, Va., school board
and an education consultant. The letter alleged that Virginia's strong
continued gain in its Standards of Learning program is not supported by other
student- achievement indicators, such as national test results.
Ms. VanDerwerker has worked hard to gain media attention as someone with
seemingly no professional ties to the public education system. She frequently
criticizes Virginia's SOL program. (<A HREF="http://edweek.org/ew/ewstory.cfm?slug=18sol.h22"
;>"As Scores Rise, Virginia Ponders Future of
Accountability,"</A> Jan. 15, 2003.) Unfortunately, her allegations in her recent
letter represent either gross distortions of the data or are simply wrong. Here
are the facts.
On the SAT I, since Virginia's SOL program began in 1995, our students'
verbal scores are up 6 points and math scores are up 12 points, for a combined gain
of 18 points. Ms. VanDerwerker's claim in her letter that Virginia's
participation rate has declined is simply wrong. The facts show that the participation
rate on our most recent year (2002) was 68 percent, more than 20 percentage
points above the national average and higher—not lower—than Virginia's
participation rate a decade ago or in 1995. The state's relatively high participation
rate makes our students' significant SAT score gains even more noteworthy.
On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, on Virginia's most recent
NAEP math test, our 4th graders made the second-highest gain in the nation,
and our 8th graders made the third-highest gain.
On the Stanford Achievement Test-9th Edition, over the five years of testing
since the SOL program began, Virginia students have shown gains at every grade
level tested (grades 4, 6, 9) in every academic- skills category tested
(reading, writing, math).
Interestingly, Ms. VanDerwerker chooses to ignore the situation prior to the
launch of Virginia's SOL program in 1995, even though she was a professional
educator during this period. She ignores the pre-SOL period because it
represents such a stark contrast to the gains post-SOL.
Virginia's students suffered one of the nation's worst declines on the NAEP
reading test in 1994. During the decade prior to the launch of the SOL effort,
on Virginia's own state Literacy Passport Test, one out of three children
failed to pass in any given year, and there was no improvement whatsoever over 10
years' time. Combined SAT scores gained little from 1991 to 1995.
Knowledgeable educators well know that test scores will fluctuate in any
given year, and no doubt Virginia's will continue to fluctuate on various tests in
the future, up some years, down in others. What is important is the overall
direction that we can discern from looking at results from numerous tests over
numerous years. The data, when looked at fairly and without ideological bias,
clearly show that since the launch of Virginia's SOL program eight years ago,
Virginia's students are learning more and performing better academically as
indicated by a variety of state and national assessments.
With the exception of Ms. VanDerwerker, many early critics of Virginia's SOL
program have changed their opinions about the program's positive impact on
student achievement. For example, your Jan. 15 article quotes James McMillan, an
education professor at Virginia Commonwealth University (and also an early
critic of the SOL program) as saying: "The test scores have risen dramatically
and have continued to rise more than I thought they would. I've seen evidence
that particularly in low-performing schools, there have been real turnarounds."
Virginia's success in this regard is due to the tireless dedication and hard
work of many teachers and school administrators. It is sad to see the results
of their efforts distorted and discredited as Ms. VanDerwerker does in her
Kirk T. Schroder
Virginia Board of Education
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