New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | November 14, 2019

SOL scores soar in Charles City; New Kent continues to thrive above state average

By Andre Jones | August 27, 2019 7:21 pm

Charles City County Public Schools saw gains in 19 subject areas while New Kent County Public Schools eclipsed the 70th percentile in all but one area as Standards of Learning (SOL) scores were released to the public by Virginia’s Department of Education (VDOE) stemming from 2018-2019 testing.

In Charles City, several areas saw massive gains in comparison to the previous year. Of the improvement areas, perfect pass rates were achieved in the areas of Algebra II and chemistry. Subject areas that saw a 20 or more point gain include grade seven English reading (64 to 85), World History I (59 to 79), World History II (54 to 92), grade three mathematics (53 to 81), grade seven mathematics (36 to 66), geometry (28 to 51), and the aforementioned Algebra II (34 to 100). Of the 31 subject tests administrated, Charles City scored higher than 70 in 16 of those areas, with nine of those tests scoring marks about 85 percent. In the areas of end of course writing and chemistry, 20 percent of students passed the test with an advanced status. Comparing the locality’s scores to the state, Charles City topped the average in eight areas.

“When we got those scores in, it was absolute elation,” said Charles City superintendent of schools David Gaston. “Coming off last year, we didn’t do poorly but we knew we had areas to work on.

“We really rallied behind of a lot of areas and brought consistency in instruction,” he continued. “From data types, to looping with grade levels [keeping teachers with the same students for multiple years], working with our remediation plans and providing non-traditional learning, there was a whole different array introduced that we knew it would have a positive effect. It was also validation for us. It’s a multi-tiered approach because our students have so many ways to learn.”

Gaston added that through the efforts of Director of Curriculum and Instruction Todd Perrelli and the ending of a three-year cohort with the College of William and Mary helped improve math scores.

“We were rewriting math curriculum and that cohort met monthly,” he commented. “Those conversations became constructive criticism and we knew that students struggled with number, concepts and geometry.

“The teachers were open to the idea of making changes for the needs of the kids in the classroom and we really saw some things happen,” Gaston said.

As far as the future, the Charles City superintendent emphasized to his staff during teacher convocation the ability to instill confidence into the students.

“We’re going to continue what we are doing, but we’re still going to focus on kids who face challenges,” he said. “We’re going to offer individualized instruction, and focus efforts much more clearly to help those who are currently unable to grasp the concept.

“You have to look at the confidence and our students had confidence in themselves that they didn’t know they had,” Gaston added as he wrapped up his interview. “By encouraging them and working with them as much as possible, that plays a big part in when it comes to a self-concept in learning. We want kids to be enthusiastic, confident, and let them know that this is their school, and we will back up those beliefs with quality instruction.”

In New Kent County Public schools, scores continue to better the state average in several subject areas with 27 of 28 areas achieving a pass rate of 70 percent of more.

New Kent looks like it has bucked the trend of low math scores in the state, as eight of the nine areas scored an 80 or higher in the subject. In total, 19 testing areas achieved the 80-point passing rate. Of those 19, six topped the 90-point passing rate plateau. The biggest gains for New Kent County Public Schools came in the areas of eighth grade math (49 to 84), geometry (76 to 91), and grade three math (76 to 89). New Kent also saw a bump in the advanced pass rate, with the subject areas of grade five reading, end of course writing, Virginia studies, and grade five science having an exception pass rate of 25 percent or more in those areas. Comparing the locality’s scores to the state’s overall average, New Kent topped the mean in an outstanding 22 areas of comparable data.

For new superintendent of New Kent County Public Schools Brian Nichols, his goal is to continue the progression of students while building a strong educational foundation within the school.

“New Kent does have some strong data points,” he said, pointing to the above average scores. “But when you peel back the layers, you can see significant progress.

“Special education and students with disabilities have gained a lot of progress,” Nichols added. “Even if our numbers seem slightly lower than the previous year, when you look at those subgroups, they are making a lot of progress.”

“One of the things we are working on is the retention of our teachers,” he said. “We have math coaches and literacy coaches. Our goal is to focus on strong professional development and provide that capacity of learning and structure for our teachers.”

Nichols continued, praising the foundation of how information is retained from one grade to the next that has continuously assisted with the strong scores.

“It’s just not the eighth grade or the third-grade teacher when you look at these scores. It’s the pipeline of instruction that makes this happens,” he commented. “One of the things about New Kent is they have a strong foundation.

“The message is about being a leader in the county and we are going to do it with service learning and additional career pathways,” Nichols added. “It’s about getting to know our staff as well as our students and realizing the staff’s hopes and dreams and find out how to sponsor them.”

In conclusion, Nichols commented about the commitment that the staff of New Kent schools continue to have to excel their educational system to the next level.

“Conversations with teachers and principals during our convocation made one thing clear to me, and that was that while our scores are good, nobody is satisfied with them,” said the New Kent superintendent. “We are looking to work across departments and core areas. We are looking to extend learning to before and after school, as well as summer school. We are working on certifications on teachers and expanding our knowledge. As good as we are, we’re determined to be better.

“I’m extremely proud on how this team works,” Nichols said as he wrapped up his interview. “We are all in this together and we are going to make big things happen with a tremendously supported school board. We are going to work and take this further.