By Callie Hietala
Students in Martinsville City and Henry County Public Schools fell behind during the 2020-2021 school year, according to state assessment data released last week by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE.)
Students who took the federally mandated Standards of Learning tests for the 2020-2021 school year (the tests were cancelled for 2019-2020 due to the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic) underperformed across the board in both the city, county, and state, reflecting the unique challenges facing schools, teachers, and students during the ongoing COVID health crisis.
Math and science scores fell most dramatically. Statewide, there was a 54 percent pass rate on the math SOL while 59 percent of students passed in science. During the 2018-2019 school year, the last year tests were taken, Virginia students had an 82 and 81 percent pass rate in each of those subjects, respectively.
Martinsville City had a 30 percent pass rate in math for 2020-2021, down from 80 percent the last time the SOLs were taken while Henry County dropped from and 82 percent pass rate in the 18-19 school year to 45 percent in 20-21.
In science, Martinsville fell from a 68 percent pass rate to only 28 percent. Albert Harris Elementary recorded the biggest drop—down from 75 percent to only 11 percent. Forty-six percent of Henry County students passed the science SOL last year, down from 79 percent previously.
Reading scores remained relatively level across the board. City-wide, Martinsville students dropped from a 67 percent pass rate to 53 percent and Henry County dropped from 75 to 69 percent. However, Martinsville High School and Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School improved on their scores in that subject over the previous testing year. Martinsville High jumped from 63 to 71 percent and FC Middle went from 68 to 76 percent.
There was a statewide decrease in the number of students who took the SOLs. In a typical year, around 99 percent of students take the federally mandated tests. In 2021, 75.5 percent of students took the reading test, 78.7 percent took math, and 80 percent took science.
Henry County schools saw a slightly higher participation rate than the state. According to Assessment Coordinator Shonna Pilson, 84 percent of Henry County students took English Reading, 86 percent took math, and 86 percent took science. She also noted that participation varied from school to school with high schools having higher rates of participation because their assessments were still required for graduation.
“State assessment data are only one component of student achievement from last year,” Pilson noted. “A single data point should not be used to determine the whole picture for student success last year. Academic achievement is only one piece of the puzzle.”
Lisa Millner, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, said that the county school system applied for and received $171,431.52 from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSR II) grant to help students recover academically from an unprecedented year. The funds will be used “to assist with summer school and after school enrichment and remediation transportation costs. We realize that our students will need support after school and during the summer. We do not want transportation to be a hindrance for our students at any level, therefore this grant funding will assist with those needs.”
Parker Gunn, Communications and Community Outreach Coordinator of Martinsville City Schools, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.