Essex County Public Schools continue to show growth, according to the Standards of Learning (SOL) data recently released by the Virginia Department of Education.
The Standards of Learning for Virginia Public Schools establish minimum expectations for what students should know and be able to do at the conclusion of each grade or course in English, mathematics, science, history, social science, and other subjects. Graduation rates, dropout rates and student preparation for college and careers are also considered for accreditation.
The state’s ratings issued to school divisions and individual schools are — Accredited: Schools with all school quality indicators at either Level One or Level Two. In addition, schools that are in a triennial accreditation period are also Accredited; Accredited with Conditions: Schools with one or more school quality indicators at Level Three.
In Essex, James H. Cary Intermediate School earned the accreditation standard after being accredited with conditions last school year. Tappahannock Elementary School continues to be accredited, while Essex High School continues to be accredited with conditions.
The Essex School Division’s overall passing results included 65 percent in reading, 59 percent in mathematics, and 61 percent in science. State averages were 73 percent in reading, 69 percent in mathematics, and 67 percent in science.
In an interview with the Rappahannock Times, Dr. Cyndee Blount – the chief academic officer for the Essex School System – noted that the passing rates for Essex improved in each category (3 percentage points higher in reading, six percentage points higher in mathematics, and 10 percentage points higher) over 2022.
The state pass rate average in reading remained the same, while the mathematics result improved by three percentage points and the science pass rate improved by two percentage points).
The Essex School Division’s ranking on the SOL results improved from 111th in 2022 to 108th in 2023. This is the best ranking for the school division since at least 2006.
Essex is a member of the Comprehensive Instructional Program (CIP) which began compiling rank orders in 2006. The CIP is a consortium of public school divisions in Virginia working collaboratively to improve student achievement as measured by the SOL assessments.
“We’re heading in the right direction,” Blount said.
It was noted that Essex pass rates were higher in all three categories when compared to local school division’s such as King and Queen and Lancaster. Essex’s pass rate for reading also exceeded Richmond County’s by one percentage point.
Blount noted that the focus at Essex High School is improving pass rates in the categories of English and science.
Highlighted school division results presented by Bount included:
• Reading ranked 96th (best since 2012 CIP ranking)
• Math ranked 101st (best since CIP rankings began in 2006); and
• Science 90th (best since CIP rankings began in 2006).
Highlighted rank order for individual schools included:
• 5th grade science 80th (best since CIP rankings began in 2006);
• Biology 76th (best since CIP rankings began in 2006);
• 8th grade reading 84th best since 2012);
• 5th grade reading 79th (best since CIP rankings began in 2006);
• 3rd grade reading 79th (best since 2021);
• 6th grade reading 54th (best since CIP rankings began in 2006);
• 7th grade math 87th (best since 2016);
• 3rd grade math 81st (best since 2019);
• 6th grade match 42nd (best since CIP rankings began in 2006);
• 8th grade math 15th (best since CIP rankings began in 2006);
• Algebra I 2nd (best since CIP rankings began in 2006);
Also, the on-time graduation rate at Essex High School was 98.1 percent compared to 93.6 percent the previous year. The state average for 2023 was 91 percent.
“What I’m particularly pleased with is that we are now surpassing other local school divisions and schools that are comparable to us in terms of free and reduced lunch rates,” Essex Superintendent of Schools Dr. Harry Thomas. “With our reconfiguration of grades we feel we are in a better position to get all our schools across the threshold.”
Thomas noted that math was the previous issue that kept Essex High School from being accredited, but now ranks second in Algebra I pass rate.
He also noted that moving the eighth grade to James H. Cary Intermediate School will enhance EHS’s chances of becoming accredited during the current year.
“That change coupled with the third year of implementing our accountability structure and our instructional model, we feel will help put us over that hump,” Thomas said.