Students taking fewer SOL tests under new requirements

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RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Revised requirements mean Virginia's students are taking fewer end-of-course Standards of Learning tests this year.

The Virginia Board of Education made changed to the graduation requirements and school accreditation regulations in 2017, and those went into effect with students who became ninth graders in 2018.

While the number of standard credits for a Standard Diploma and for an Advanced Studies Diploma are the same, the number of required verified credits, which are earned by passing a course in the content area and passing the associated SOL, was reduced to five for both.

Those five credits are English reading, English writing, mathematics, science and history/social studies.

Another change is that students no longer have to take the SOLs if they have already earned a verified credit in the subject.

However, some subjects require additional testing, specifically mathematics or science or both, as required by the Every Student Succeeds Act.

That law requires annual testing in reading and math in grades three through eight and at least once in high school.

Students will also take a test in science at least once each in elementary school, middle school and high school.

“The Board of Education sees value in limiting the number of high-stakes assessments required to earn a diploma and in allowing students to demonstrate content knowledge through performance-based assessments,” Said Board of Education President Daniel Gecker. “The revised graduation requirements maintain high expectations for learning while providing more flexibility for teachers in delivering instruction and more opportunities for students to develop like skill useful beyond school.”

Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane says the pass rates for end-of-course SOL tests in math, science and history for 2018-2019 will mark the beginning of new trend lines because of the reduction in testing.

The 2019 spring testing window will also mark the introduction of new math assessments that are based on the 2016 Mathematics Standards of Learning.

The new tests in Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra II will each have 45 items, which is five fewer than previous versions.

“This year marks a major step toward the creation of a balanced assessment system that supports classroom innovation while maintaining accountability for improving outcomes for students,” said Lane. “It is really exciting to travel about the state and see how teachers are taking advantage of this opportunity to engage their students in real-world challenges that promote deeper learning across the curriculum.”

The main spring testing window opened on April 8 with students in the western part of the state typically testing in April and May and students in the central and eastern parts of the state testing in May and June.

Eighth graders and high school students took their SOL writing tests in March.

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