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Lighthouse Literacy Research Project
Reading Rates in Southside Virginia With a Close Look at Greensville and Sussex Counties


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Is there a rise?

Is there a decline?

What can LLP do?

Throughout our childhood, we have heard or seen in multiple media outlets that “reading is fundamental.” This statement means that, reading is important and is the baseline for life learning and for development. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, proficiency in reading by the third grade is an important mark for children leading to a successful or unsuccessful academic trajectory (Innis, 2015). While this is important, in some rural areas there is a lack of access to books and reading material (Columbia University, 2017) that can assist students in academic success. This lack of access to reading materials is due to lack of transportation or adequate time to visit local libraries, funds to purchase books, and lack of education and awareness of the importance of reading in homes. This lack could inadvertently impact the success of children to pass the reading tests or reach reading level proficiency.

For this research project, I will analyze the Virginia Reading SOL Scores for grades third, eighth, and eleventh (end of course or final state reading test) for schools located in the Southside region of Virginia, particularly the schools located in the Greensville/Emporia and Sussex County. This research project will assist the Lighthouse Literacy Project to partner with organizations to provide services in an effort to increase the reading and literacy rate in the mentioned areas. 

Background Information and Methods

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The Southside Region of Virginia is comprised of the following 17 districts:  Amelia, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Dinwiddie, Greensville/Emporia, Halifax, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Prince Edward, Prince George, Surry, and Sussex, and the cities of Hopewell, and Petersburg. The combined population of the Southside district is 347,387, with Sussex and Greensville/Emporia listing as three of the seven smallest counties. While I will analyze the rates for the entire district, a portion of the focus is on Greensville and Sussex to provide a greater understanding of the need to provide support services.  


Greensville/Emporia has a combined population of 16,967 with 2,223 students enrolled in the school system, and Sussex's population is 11,733 with 1091 students enrolled in the district. Of the enrolled count for both districts, Greensville has a reading proficiency rate of 58% and Sussex has a reading proficiency rate of 78%. While the rate for Sussex is over 75%, the rate for Greensville is low in comparison to Sussex, which is a neighboring county. 

For this research project, we are looking at the test scores for the two mentioned districts in comparison to other districts to get an understanding of the following:

  • Are the advance pass rate and pass rate equal across all districts?

  • Is there a disparity between the advanced past and pass rates in Greensville and Sussex, as compared to the largest district, Prince George?

The dataset to analyze the districts was retrieved from the Virginia Department of Education SOL Test Scoring and Performance site. The data was retrieved and downloaded as an excel file, and all school districts outside of the Southside Region were removed, and all grades were removed except third, eighth, and eleventh, and the focus was on the last three years reported. We generalized the data to the mentioned grades because third grade is a critical reading level for students, eighth grade is the last reading test before high school, and the End of Course, the 11th-grade reading test is the final reading/English proficiency test that determines if a student graduates. 

Data and Methods

Overall View of the Data

Overview of Pass Rates

The interactive charts below list the reading passing rates for all districts. Based on the chart, most of the districts are above the 50% for passing rates for all of the reported years of 2016-2017, 2017-2018, and 2018-2019. Prince George, which is the largest district, the highest passing rate for third grade was 2016-2017 at 85%, and in 2018-2019 the passing rate dropped to 80%, and for 11th grade, the passing rate was about the same for all three years, at 90% in 2016-2017, 86% in 2017-2018, and 89% in 2018-2019.

In Surry County, the smallest district, the passing rate for third grade was 81% in 2016-2017 and 63% in 2018-2019, and for 11th grade, the passing rate was at or close to 80% for two years, and 89% for 2018-2019. 

Prince George overall has the highest passing rates. 

Trends in the Advance and Pass Rates

In comparison to the Advance Passing Rates, the passing rates in 2016-2017 were higher for 11th graders and lower for advance passing rates in the same year at below 10% for all districts. In 2017-2018, for 11th graders, the passing rate was above 70% and the advance passing rate was below 10% for all districts. In 2018-2019 for 11 graders, the passing rate was above 50%, and the advance passing rate was below 10% for all districts.


In comparison to the Advance Passing rates, the passing rates for eighth-graders in 2016-2017 for most districts were above 50% with three, Greensville, Petersburg, and Prince Edward with a below 50% passing rate, and for the same year, most districts had a 10% advance passing rate, except Charlotte, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, and Sussex. For 2017-2018 the passing rate for all districts was above 50%, except Petersburg, and the advance passing rate was close to 10% or below for all districts, except Cumberland, Lunenburg, and Surry with an advance passing rate of 11% or more. In 2018-2019, the passing rate for eighth-graders was above 50% with the exception of Petersburg at 43%, and the advance passing rate was 10% or lower with the exception of Buckingham, Cumberland, Prince George, and Sussex with an11% or more advance pass rate. 


In 2016-2017, the passing rate for third graders was above 50% and the advance passing rate was below 10% for most districts. For 2017-2018 the passing rate for all districts was above 50%, except Greensville, Buckingham, Brunswick, and Prince Edward, and the advance passing rate was close to 9% or more for all districts with exception of Brunswick, Buckingham, Greensville all at 7% and Hopewell at 8%. In 2018-2019, the passing rate for eighth-graders was above 50% with the exception of Brunswick at 48%, and the advance passing rate was 15% or lower with the exception of Charlotte County, Nottoway, and Prince George with an 18-20% advance pass rate. 

Based on the data, most districts are consistent with the percentage of students with a passing rate or advance passing rate. While it is not unusual for the percentage of students with an advanced passing rate to be lower, it is alarming for schools to have passing rates below 50%, especially at the third-grade level which is a critical proficiency year. In the case of Greensville County the passing rate was at 47% for third graders in 2016-2017 and 2017-2018, and increased to 56% in 2018-2019, while in Sussex, the pass rate was above 70% in 2016-2017 and 2018-2019, and 68% in 2017-2018.

How Does Greensville Compare? What are next steps?

In comparison to Sussex, a neighboring district, and Prince George, the largest district, Greensville's passing rate is lower for all three years for each grade level. Sussex rates are all 70% or more in line with Prince George rates, except for 2016-2017 for eighth-graders and 2017-2018 for third graders, while Greensville rates are mostly below 50%. 


Based on this, the students in Greensville County need more assistance and support to increase reading proficiency than students in Sussex County. In Greensville, the passing rate for third graders, the most critical year was below 50% in 2016-2017 but increased to 56% in 2018-2019. For eighth-graders in Greensville, the passing rate was above 50%, but still lower than Prince George and Sussex. For 11th graders, the pass rate was above 60% but lower than Sussex and Prince George with a passing rate of 85% or more.   

Conclusion and Next Steps

Greensville does need extra supports for students, especially in third and eleventh grades. The third grade level support is critical for a student's academic success and at the 11th grade level, the test determines if a student will graduate from high school.


The Lighthouse Literacy Project will work with community partners to offer reading tutorials and test preparation workshops for students. The addtional support will assist students in becoming academically sound and successful in reading and reading comprehension. In the next few months, the Ligthhouse Literacy Project will use the data analysis to craft a learning plan to provide services to students and families in the community. 

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City Data. (2005). City Data Forum. City Data.

Cubit. (2021). Virginia Demographics. Cubit.

Innis, G. (2015, February 26). Reading is more than just fundamental- it’s a necessity. Michigan State University, MSU Extension.

Public Health Education and Community Health. (2017, February 21). A Leg up on reading in rural America. Columbia University.

Virginia Department of Education. (2019, August 13). SOL Test Pass Rates and Other Results. Commonwealth of Virginia.

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