SOL numbers continue to climb across Cumberland district

Published 4:53 am Saturday, September 16, 2023

CUMBERLAND – The numbers keep going up and that’s not a bad thing. Two of Cumberland County’s three public schools were fully accredited without conditions when the latest state data was released this week. Superintendent Chip Jones summed up the positive news. 

“The good news is that all three Cumberland schools are accredited, and the division showed progress in multiple areas,” Jones said. “First, test results for Cumberland Elementary School revealed math scores that are higher than the state average. Cumberland Middle School math scores also remained strong, exceeding the state average. Although still an area of concern for CMS, science scores improved significantly. Cumberland High School made growth in science; English scores remained strong; the on-time graduation rate increased; and the College, Career and Civic Readiness Index went up.” 

As we said, there’s a lot of positives to talk about. But first, let’s explain what accreditation is. The Virginia Department of Education decides if an individual school is accredited, or meets state standards, based on six categories. The state looks at a school’s English pass rate, English achievement gaps, math pass rate, math achievement gaps, science pass rate and if there is chronic absenteeism. If a school doesn’t meet state standards for multiple years, then the Department of Education steps in to help determine what’s needed to address the issues. 

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That’s not a problem across most of the district, a point Jones credited to his teachers and staff. 

“This progress has been attributed to hard work by staff members; interventionists who worked to mitigate learning loss due to COVID-19; intense professional learning for teachers, including workshops conducted by learning consultants; and obtaining additional resources, such as Infusion Reading to improve language arts skills at the middle and high school levels,” Jones said. 

Cumberland High takes steps 

That growth is on display at Cumberland High, which is fully accredited for the fifth year in a row. A total of 83% of Cumberland High students passed the state’s English test, well over the 75% state standard and higher than pre-pandemic numbers. In 2019, 77% passed the test. The science numbers also stand out, not just for being above the 70% state standard, but for the year to year jump. Last year, only 63% of Cumberland High students passed the science test. This time, that climbed to 76%. 

Graduation numbers also climbed, while the dropout rate fell at the school. Ninety-three percent of students from the Class of 2023 graduated on time. That’s back up near where the school was pre-pandemic, at 94%. The dropout rate, while small to begin with at 5% last year, kept shrinking, coming in at 4% this time around. 

“Being accredited with no conditions speaks volumes to the hard work of the faculty and staff here at Cumberland High School,” Principal Mary Shores said. “This is a great team of educators who are dedicated to our school, its students and the community.” 

Elementary, Middle show signs 

When you exceed state standards on these tests, the category goes green. That’s what’s showing up across the board at Cumberland Elementary. In math, for example, 88% of students passed the state test. That’s above the state standard of 70%, above last year’s 88% figure and almost back to pre-pandemic numbers, which stood at 91%. In English, you can say improvement has actually exceeded what was going on before COVID. In 2019, 73% of Cumberland Elementary students passed their English test. Now that number is up to 82%, well above the 75% state standard. 

Cumberland Middle, meanwhile, showed both positives and negatives. It was the only school in the district accredited with conditions. That was due to scores in English and science that fell below the state standards. English scores fell to 62%, down from 66% last year and 76% pre-pandemic. The positive for science, as Jones pointed out, is that the middle school saw growth year over year. In science, 53% of Cumberland Middle students passed the test, compared with 50% last year and 78% pre-pandemic. 

Cumberland takes steps to help students improve

Jones said work is already starting to help the students improve. 

Plans have already been put in place to assist with overall achievement, particularly with achievement groups,” Jones said. “To help promote achievement for students with disabilities, special educators and collaborative teachers are working on inclusive practices, engaging in professional development with consultants in behavior management and support, and participating in a regional consortium geared to work with students having behavioral issues.”

He added that the division also conducted resource mapping, reviewing all available resources and determining what else was needed for students. 

“Last year, both remediation and enrichment activities were available after school at all three schools, as well as before school for the elementary students,” Jones said. “This school year, the division has received three 21st Century Learning grants, one grant for each school. This will allow for intense before- and after-school remediation and enrichment for all students.”