RICHMOND, Va. — Student performance improved on Virginia’s more rigorous mathematics tests last school year, but pass rates fell on the newly revised English and science exams, state education officials said Tuesday.

The Virginia Department of Education officials said overall, 71 percent of students passed the math assessments on the Standards of Learning in the 2012-2013 school year, compared with 68 percent the year before. Math results were down notably in the previous school year because of the revised standards aimed at better preparing students for college or post-graduation employment.

Improved performance on the challenging tests shows that the state is moving in the right direction, Board of Education President David M. Foster said in a news release.

“The higher pass rates achieved by students in many rural, urban and suburban divisions suggest that the state board has not put the bar out of reach.”

The education department implemented English and science standards during the 2012-2013 school year to further meet national and international benchmarks for college-and-career readiness. The exams place more of a focus on critical thinking and problem solving rather than traditional multiple-choice tests.

Officials said that, as expected, 75 percent of students passed the reading tests for their grade level and 76 percent passed the writing portion.

In science, 81 percent passed their grade-level or end-of-course tests, and 85 percent passed their history and social science tests.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright said the results on the revised exams begin new trend lines to challenge students to “achieve new levels of mastery.”

“Raising standards is difficult, but well worth the effort,” she said.

Virginia plans to release its annual state accreditation ratings based on test results and other measures, as well as federal accountability reports next month. Schools will be able to use a three-year average of test results to help lessen the impact of lower rates in the last two school years.

The latest test results comes as Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli and his Democratic rival, Terry McAuliffe, have both proposed reforming Standards of Learning testing for public school students, reflecting frustrations among educators and parents who that preparing students for the tests is little more than an exercise in short-term rote memorization. The program was established as an accountability tool for both students and school systems under former Gov. George Allen in the early 1990s.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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