Salem City Schools hopes to build upon its 2021-22 Standards of Learning scores in the coming year.
The latest round of SOL test results was released in August. Salem’s scores were reviewed during the division’s regular September meeting last week.
“Our expectations are that we return to being one of the top school divisions in the state with regard to student achievement measured by the SOL,” Dr. Curtis Hicks, superintendent for Salem City Schools, said. “Our goal is to improve student achievement across the board. With it, all students will do better.”
For reading among all students, the division had a 74% pass rate for 2021-22, the same as for the previous year. The division’s rates are better than the state-wide rates for reading, which were 69% for 2020-21 and 73% for 2021-22.
Pass rates for math among all students saw a significant uptick this year, going from 60% for 2020-21 to 77% in 2021-22. The division’s rates are better than the state-wide rates for math, which were 54% for 2020-21 and 66% for 2021-22.
Hicks attributed the uptick in last year’s math scores to increased daily instruction.
He described last year as being a “hangover from the pandemic.” Teachers, he said, were trying to make up lost ground.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow noted when the scores were released that a return to in-person learning made a difference throughout the state.
“The bottom line is that in-person instruction matters. When we compare the 2021-2022 data with achievement in 2020-2021 — when the majority of our students were learning remotely or on hybrid schedules — we can see the difference our teachers made once they were reunited with their students in their classrooms,” Balow said in an Aug. 18 release. “I want to thank all of our teachers for everything they did last year to begin what will be a multiyear recovery effort.”
This year, Hicks said, students are better prepared to “hit the ground running.” One of the things that he said helped prepare students was a robust summer program.
“It has been a more normal opening. Fortunately, COVID isn’t front and center,” he said of the start of this school year. “We’re really excited to start this year under very positive circumstances.”
The division identified three areas of focus going into the new school year, including high expectations for student attendance, high expectations for student behavior and high expectations for academic responsibility.
“We want kids to be in school, we want them to behave in a way that promotes a safe and disciplined learning environment and we want them to take responsibility for their academic achievement,” Hicks said.
He added that teachers were asked to “extend a lot of grace” to students since the start of the pandemic. This year, he said, will be about “getting kids back on track” because “people typically thrive under clear expectations.”
In looking ahead, Hicks said that he feels a 10% increase in the division’s SOL scores across the board is a realistic goal for the 2022-23 school year.
“Coming out of the pandemic, the scores from this past spring really serve as our baseline. That tells us where we are right now. Then we start to set some incremental goals,” he said.
Historically, the division has strived to achieve a 90% pass rate in all SOL subjects. “It might take us a few years to get there, but our goal is certainly to be among the best performing school divisions in the state with regard to student achievement as measured by the SOLs,” he said.
Hicks also noted that all six of the division’s schools were accredited.