AUGUSTA COUNTY -- Results show a statewide dip in SOL test scores, but numbers in Staunton, Augusta County and Waynesboro are below the state average in several areas.
According to results released by the Virginia Department of Education, numbers are down across the state. Administrators attribute the lower scores to a revamped - and more difficult - test.
The new test overall is more rigorous, they said, and included new styles of questions.
"In the past, the Standards of Learning tests were single-response, multiple choice," said John Matherly, director of instruction for Augusta County Schools. "One correct answer out of four possible options. [Now] you might be given seven or eight choices, and there might be three, four or five correct answers."
Now schools throughout the state must adjust.
"What we do throughout the year is what makes the difference in our end-of-year tests," said Stephanie Haskins, director of assessment and instruction for Staunton City Schools. "It's not that students are learning less, it's that the expectations are higher."
Sue Wright, the director of instruction for Waynesboro schools, said any time there is a change in test like this, it takes some time for students and teachers to get used to it.
"Our teachers are working on problem solving, which goes right into test-taking skills, and understanding different ways to look at problems," she said. "So we put an emphasis on that as well."
But still, Staunton City Schools, Waynesboro Public Schools and Augusta County Schools are below the state average in several categories. One reason could be poverty, Wright said.
"Some of our students struggle with poverty," she said. "The federal government recognizes that students in poverty struggle with something like a standardized test. And much of it has to do with vocabulary."
The next step, administrators say, is looking at what adjustments need to be made so their students can continue to succeed.
"We want to graduate entrepreneurs, and we want to graduate students who can think and who are creative, and who can walk into the workforce or who can walk into a college classroom and be prepared," Wright said.
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