Grades and SOL scores soar in Salem schools

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By Sam Wall

Last Tuesday’s school board meeting, the last for Salem before students return to the classroom, yielded positive academic reports from Salem High School as well as G.W. Carver Elementary regarding the 2014-15 academic year.

Kristyn Shepherd, principal at G.W. Carver, presented the school’s SOL results from the past spring.  The elementary school saw its biggest overall improvement in math, with all grades tested (third-fifth) receiving higher scores than they did in the 2013-14 academic year.  Reading scores also improved among fifth graders from a 75 to 80 percent pass rate.  The biggest jump from the previous year was in fifth grade science scores, going from 65 to 80 percent.

The high school’s recent academic surge was equally impressive.  The retention rate for students, meaning students who are forced to repeat a grade, for the 2014-15 school year was 2.2 percent, which is more than three times lower than it was for the 2004-05 academic year.  Also, since 2007-08, the on-time graduation rate has increased from almost 86 percent to 93.7 percent.

SOL scores in science, history and math have also increased over the last couple of years, which would support principal Scott Habeeb’s assertion that the recent improvements are due to the board’s “long-term approach” to academic success for Salem City schools, rather than relaxed or watered down grading scales being the reason for the improved numbers.

Also on the docket were changes to the meal policy at elementary schools for the upcoming year.  In an effort to make sure that no child is left hungry while at school, students will now be able to charge up to five meals, lunch or breakfast, without having any money to pay for said meals.  After two meals have been charged, parents will be notified to bring their student’s account current.

Parents may let the school know ahead of time if they wish to not have the child’s account go in to the negative status.  How to handle those accounts will be handled on an individual basis.  The policy is part of an on-going joint initiative between Aramark and Salem to make sure that student’s nutritional needs are being met.

Finally, starting this upcoming school year, students will now be able to take an introductory Mandarin Chinese class at SHS.  The board approved adding the foreign language course to the available curriculum in a unanimous decision.