Alexandria high school students passed Virginia's math and science tests in much greater numbers this year and improved in other academic subjects, according to figures released by city school officials.
Results from the Standards of Learning (SOL) high school tests showed that the biggest improvement was on the Algebra II exam, which 66 percent of Alexandria students passed this spring, compared with 28 percent last year. The passing rate jumped from 27 percent to 54 percent on the earth science test and from 39 percent to 66 percent on the chemistry exam.
Despite those gains, the figures showed that Alexandria's only high school, T.C. Williams, remains below the state's benchmark, which calls for a 70 percent passing rate in each of four major subject areas. Schools that have not reached the state's standards by 2007 will lose their accreditation.
Alexandria's is the only Northern Virginia school district to release preliminary results on this year's SOL exams. Other systems are waiting until the state announces official results this summer.
On June 23, Alexandria officials released the passing rates for SOL exams given to elementary and middle school students, which also showed improvement.
On other SOL high school tests, the rate of Alexandria students passing the reading exam increased from 45 percent to 62 percent, and the passing rate on the SOL writing test went from 57 percent to 69 percent. The passing rate also increased for Algebra I, from 37 percent to 53 percent; geometry, from 43 percent to 60 percent; and biology, from 57 percent to 68 percent.
T.C. Williams Principal John Porter said the improvements stemmed from students taking the tests more seriously and teachers adjusting their lessons.
He said the school needs to improve in social studies. The passing rate went from 19 percent to 25 percent on the U.S. history test; from 50 percent to 58 percent in world history to the year 1000; and from 8 percent to 22 percent in world history from the year 1000.
Starting in 2004, each Virginia student will be required to pass six of the 11 SOL high school tests, including one in each of the four major subject areas, to receive a diploma.