L.P. Jackson SOL math scores fall dramatically

Published 12:40 pm Wednesday, August 31, 2016

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

SURRY — Luther P. Jackson Middle School’s seventh grade math SOL scores dropped by an unexpected 57 points this year.

The question for Surry County Schools now is what went wrong.  

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Dr. Michael Thornton, who became Surry County’s Superintendent in July, said that he and his staff have been looking into the problem, and so far believes the dramatic fall in scores was largely caused by an increase in the rigor of the math curriculum introduced at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year. 

“Did we expect [scores to fall] nearly 60 points? No,” Thornton said.

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The free fall in math scores was consistent in each category of seventh grade students, including female, male, black, white, economically disadvantaged and students with disabilities. The test scores, which were released Aug. 15, brought the seventh grade math class from an overall 91 percent passing rate in 2014-15 to a mere 34 percent this year, nearly 40 points below the state’s benchmark of 72 percent.

 Besides a more rigorous seventh grade math curriculum, this was the first year the class took the state mandated Standards of Learning Test on computers, which posed a new challenge and a different kind of test, according to Thornton. The pacing and delivery of the material also posed a problem, Thornton said.  

“It was an adjustment year for both students and teachers,” Thornton said, adding that he is not putting blame on either the students or the teachers for the plummet in scores.

Thornton noted that seventh grade mathematics can often be a particularly challenging course for students.

“Seventh grade math is a very difficult math in the sense that it is a transition math,” said Thornton.  “That does not suggest that the kids that remain in seventh grade can’t do the work.”

Because it is still early in the year, and staff are just returning, it is difficult to know the full extent of what went wrong as of yet, according to Thornton.

“We need to peel back the layers and sit down with staff and see what lessons can be learned,” Thornton said.

Luther P. Jackson Middle just recently appointed Trina Craddox as its new principal and Thornton is confident that the hire will help the class and the middle school regain its footing in mathematics.

“One of the advantages of hiring Ms. Craddox is that she has a background in math,” Thornton said.

As for last year’s seventh grade math class, teachers will begin working to make sure students are on track and where they are supposed to be academically, according to Thornton.

“Once teachers get back in we will work to determine what additional support those now in eight grade math will now need,” Thornton said.