Check out the article in the Fairfax Times....
Report ranks high school performance
By Kali Schumitz
Source: Fairfax County Times
TUESDAY, MAY 13 2008
The FairfaxCAPS report calculated a “GPA” for each magisterial district in the county, based on average 2007 Standards of Learning test scores at high schools in each district. Schools were assigned to the district where the majority of students live.
Dranesville – 3.82
Braddock – 3.55
Springfield – 3.55
Providence – 3.36
Sully – 3.36
Hunter Mill – 3.18
Mason – 2.73
Lee – 2.64
Mount Vernon – 2.36
View the full report at www.fairfaxcaps.org.
High schools in southeastern Fairfax County have lower scores on standardized tests than schools in other areas of the county, according to a “report card” published last week by the Fairfax County Coalition of Advocates for Public Schools.
The report, which was based on 2007 Virginia Standards of Learning scores, also indicates higher pass rates at schools offering Advanced Placement courses versus those offering the International Baccalaureate program. Eight of the county's 25 high schools have the IB program, and five of those eight schools are located in the southeastern part of the county.
Despite the report's focus on AP versus IB schools – a major point of contention during last year's redistricting of high schools in western Fairfax – this initial effort by FairfaxCAPS is not intended to answer the “why” of test score disparities, according to communications director Scott Chronister. He said the report is just using existing data to point out differences that the School Board tends to gloss over.
“They try to make it sound like the school system is a homogeneous institution – if you get an education in one school you're getting the same education as you would anywhere,” he said. “I think it would really strain credulity to think that there aren't differences.”
FairfaxCAPS, which was initially formed to oppose the west county redistricting and is also suing the school system over the boundary changes, hopes to continue to look at these issues and present them to the public in an easily digestible manner, Chronister said.
The report card takes the average SOL test scores in the four core subjects for each high school and converts them to a letter grade. Those grades were then averaged into a “GPA” for each school and magisterial district. Eighteen schools earned a “B” average or higher.
School Board member Stuart Gibson (Hunter Mill) said, given that FairfaxCAPS is known to oppose the IB program, it is not surprising that their methodology produced a result supporting the group's beliefs. Gibson, whose oldest daughter “was basically transformed” by her experience in South Lakes High School's IB English classes, has been a staunch defender of the program.
Judging a high school based on average SOL scores doesn't tell the full story, Gibson said, and there are many other indicators that show that the county is doing well. Socioeconomic factors are the single greatest predictors of performance on standardized tests, he said.
“If you have a high-achieving student, that student is going to succeed at any high school in Fairfax County,” Gibson said. “The challenge that we have is where the student is not getting help at home; where the parents might not even speak English.”
The challenge, Stu Gibson, is to share those precisous resources that go to the IB Diploma students, with all students.