V.I. public school students achieved slightly higher scores overall on their 2015-16 Smarter Balanced assessment tests relative to 2014-15, the first school year the assessment system was used in the territory.
Department of Education officials hosted a conference call with members of the media Wednesday to help explain a report on the assessment that was made public that morning.
"We are encouraged and I really believe we are on the correct road moving in the right direction," said Education Commissioner Sharon Ann McCollum.
The Smarter Balanced assessment tests are aligned to the Common Core State Standards that the V.I. adopted in 2010 and began full implementation of during the 2013-14 school year.
In addition to the USVI, 15 states and the Bureau of Indian Education use the Smarter Balanced system to help measure student performance in the areas of mathematics and English.
Results of the territory’s Smarter Balance 2015-16 assessment indicate that 19.5 percent of students who took the test met or exceeded standards in English, while 6.7 percent of students met or exceeded standards in math.
Education officials emphasized Wednesday that while those numbers show a large amount of room for improvement, they are trending in the right direction.
The percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards in English is up from last year’s 16.9 percent. And while the number of students meeting or exceeding standards in math held steady, the percentage of students who placed in the math test’s bottom category dropped from 74.1 to 72.3 percent.
"The scores are basically telling us that our students made gains," said Chermaine Hobson, assistant commissioner of Education. "We’ll never be satisfied until we can get all our students to where we need them to be, but we do recognize that gains were achieved and we’re working towards more gains this year and the year after."
Assessment results showed public school students in the St. Croix district performing substantially better in both English and math than their counterparts in the St. Thomas-St. John district.
A total of 24.4 percent of St. Croix students met or exceeded standards in English compared to 15.1 percent on St. Thomas and St. John. In math, the percentages were 9.3 percent and 4.5 percent, with students on St. Croix leading.
The schools in the St. Thomas-St. John district with the strongest student performance rates according to the assessment were the district’s two public high schools.
At Charlotte Amalie High School, 42.7 percent of students met or exceeded English standards and 10.4 met or exceeded math standards. At Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, 33.3 percent of students met or exceeded English standards and 9.4 percent met or exceeded math standards.
Of the St. Thomas-St. John district’s elementary schools, Joseph Sibilly Elementary reported the highest rates of students meeting or exceeding standards, 27.3 percent in English and 8.6 in math.
On St. Croix, the Ricardo Richards and Pearl B. Larsen Elementary Schools reported the highest student performance rates.
A total of 49.8 percent of Ricardo Richards students met or exceeded English standards and 25.9 percent met or exceeded math standards, the highest rates of any school in the territory for both subjects.
A total of 30.7 percent of Pearl B. Larsen students met or exceeded standards in English and 16. Four percent met or exceeded standards in math.
The assessment results also showed a performance gap between male and female students in the subject of English in V.I. public schools, with 25.2 percent of female students meeting or exceeding standards in English; whereas 14.1 percent of male students did. There was no comparable gender gap in math scores.
An assessment of graduation rates also released Wednesday found that the rate of students graduating from V.I. public schools on schedule increased this year over last year. In 2015 the rate was 67.6 percent. In 2016 it rose to 71.1 percent
Approximately 6,900 students participated in the 2015-2016 Smarter Balanced assessment.