Manassas schools made large gains on the second round of the state Standards of Learning tests administered in the spring.
Although many schools in the 6,500-student system saw double-digit percentage point increases in their test scores, under state guidelines none of the schools would yet have full accreditation.
The SOL tests are given each year to students in grades 3, 5 and 8 and in high school. By the 2006-07 school year, schools with less than 70 percent of students passing the exams will risk losing state accreditation.
The largest gain was in fifth-grade history scores, a troublesome subject for many school systems because the test questions and the lessons taught in the classroom don't always match up. In that subject, 56 percent of Manassas students passed, compared with 25 percent last year.
The smallest improvement this year was a 3 percentage point gain in eighth-grade math, from 55 percent to 58 percent passing this year. Only one test showed no improvement: the eighth-grade writing test, where the passing rate remained at 69 percent.
Manassas School Superintendent James E. Upperman said he was pleased with the progress, and he attributed it to the work teachers have done to align their curriculum with the state standards. Virginia has outlined exactly what subjects should be taught in each grade, Upperman said, and teachers made sure they followed those guidelines, right down to how much time to spend on each subject.
"We can be happy with the progress," Upperman said. "What we are looking for now is making progress that's sustainable."
Jennie Dean Elementary School, though it did not achieve the highest scores in the system, made the biggest across-the-board improvement. In third-grade history, for instance, 68 percent of students passed the test, compared with 30 percent last year. In fifth-grade computer technology, 85 percent passed the test, compared with 54 percent last year.
Diane Pate, principal of Dean Elementary, had an idea that the school would do well when she did some end-of-the-year calculations.
"Just seeing it buoyed everybody so much toward the end of the year," Pate said.
Pate's third- and fifth-grade teachers worked together to make sure their lesson plans matched up with the state requirements. Fifty students identified as needing extra help were given assistance in math and reading after school. Pate hasn't yet examined those individual scores. She said teachers can spread what they learned from teaching the small group to the whole school.
"We're already looking to see what we can do next year," Pate said.
The test scores can be found at the Manassas schools Web site, http://www.manassas.k12.va.us/