RPS superintendent talks poverty rates, ways to improve after SOL scores released


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The standardized test scores of Virginia’s students were released Tuesday by the Virginia Department of Education. The data revealed that SOL test scores dropped in several subject areas and many students in Central Virginia didn’t improve their pass rates from the year before.

A few local school districts are struggling to meet state averages. In Richmond, administrators told 8News they are working on a plan to help students improve.

“The bottom line is we have a lot of work to do,” Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras said Tuesday. “And as I have said, it’s a marathon not a sprint. So it’s going to take time.”

Kamras reacted to the scores from this year’s SOL tests in a conversation with 8News.

“We’re pleased with the increases in Math, Science and Writing,” he explained, “but of course disappointed in some declines in Reading and in History.”

The subject that took the biggest hit in scores at Richmond Public Schools was history. Only 55 percent of students passed the test district-wide, a drop from 2017-2018 when 62 percent of students passed.

RELATED — By the numbers: How local school districts tested on SOLs compared to state averages

“Making a huge investment in reading instruction this year. More reading specialists..other reading supports,” Kamras told 8News. “Again new reading curricula.”

Kamras mentioned the district’s poverty rate compared to counties in the area in the discussion with 8News.

“Well I think when you look at our poverty rate compared to the counties and compared to the state it’s really no comparison,” said Kamras. “We have something on the order of 80 or 90 percent of our kids living in poverty or close to it. That is not even in the ballpark of what Henrico and Chesterfield or certainly Hanover deals with. That doesn’t mean low income kids can’t learn. It just means there are a lot of challenges we have to address.”

Last year, the state discovered a few teachers at Carver Elementary School cheated on SOL tests. Scores in each subject in 2019 dropped drastically. Ninety percent of fifth graders passed the Science SOL in 2017. The number dipped to 20 percent just two years later.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Kamras admitted, “and you can see it’s radically different from what were seeing before.”

Kamras says he is already putting a plan in place to bounce back and bring up scores to the state average.

“From reading specialists, math specialists, tutoring, Saturday academies and other interventions to make sure they are getting the support they deserve,” he explained to 8News.

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