Beach schools program that helps students pass SOLs gets scrutiny, suggestions for improvement

VIRGINIA BEACH — School officials are reviewing a district program that helps struggling students pass their Standards of Learning tests.

During a presentation Tuesday on the issue, School Board members questioned how well tutors are trained for the remediation program, which costs the division about $790,000 annually.

Last year, more than 9,000 of the district’s roughly 33,000 middle and high school students used some component of the program, which is for students who have failed or are close to failing the tests, according to Robert Veigel, a research specialist for the school division.

For both middle and high schoolers, math was the most common subject for remediation, Veigel said.

Overall, 53 percent of middle school students who did remediation work later passed their corresponding tests. Among high schoolers, that overall pass-rate was 73 percent.

The district’s review showed schools vary their remediation activities and not all agreed on what counted as a remediation exercise. The activities are taught by core teachers at the school or paid tutors.

The review found that 41 percent of high school administrators and school improvement specialists said their tutors received training on the remediation program, 21 percent said they did not, and 38 percent said they did not know.

“I want to understand who the tutors are,” School Board member Ashley McLeod said. “I was concerned when I saw 38 percent don’t know. What kind of training is it?”

Chairman Dan Edwards also had concerns with the tutors’ effectiveness.

“Can I assume at least at the site that someone is tracking the students that passed relative to the tutors they had?” he asked. “And if there’s a tutor that needs more than training, they get what they need or we find different tutors. That seems to be common sense, but that wasn’t stated in there.”

Amy Cashwell, chief academic officer for teaching and learning, said training varies depending on the type of tutor and the school. For example, a retired teacher might not need as much training as someone new to the division. She said schools are supposed to provide some sort of training.

The School Board is expected to officially endorse several staff recommendations to improve the program at its Feb. 2 meeting.

Among those recommendations will be to ensure that tutors receive proper training on techniques and subject areas, Veigel said. The other recommendations include creating a more defined and focused program across the division, improving data-collection in each school, and identifying schools that have had the best remediation success so their work can be spread division-wide.

Have a story idea or news tip? Contact schools reporter Kelly Kultys at Kelly@SouthsideDaily.com or 757-490-2750.

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