Changes to Spring SOL Testing for High School Students

In April, the Virginia Department of Education issued information around changes in the Standards of Learning (SOL) assessment program. The information coincides with the opening next week of the spring non-writing SOL testing window.

The key messages are:

  • High school students are taking fewer end-of-course SOL tests this spring due to revised graduation and school accreditation standards approved by the Board of Education in 2017.
  • Reducing end-of-course testing allows more flexibility for teachers and more opportunities for students to explore careers and develop the life skills identified in the Profile of a Virginia Graduate as Five C’s: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, citizenship and communication.
  • The new (and fewer) graduation requirements became effective with students who entered the ninth grade in the fall of 2018 (class of 2022). Students in grades 10-12 are grandfathered under the old requirements.
  • All students — regardless of when they entered the ninth grade — are no longer required to take an SOL test for a course if they have already earned the verified credit in the content area that they need to graduate. However, middle school students who earn high school credit for a course, such as Algebra I, would still have to take a math SOL because the federal government requires all students to take one math and one science SOL while enrolled in grades 9-12.
  • In addition, new mathematics SOL tests are being introduced at all grade levels this spring, and the end-of-course assessments in Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II are five items shorter than the previous tests.

What will this mean for ACPS?

  • This will effectively mean a reset for SOL test data. These high school results will not be comparable to previous year results. Do not try to compare results as it would be apples to oranges.
  • The state’s new approach, which does not allow students to take tests once they have passed, will result in smaller pools of students who may need more work taking the exams. This is anticipated to impact the data we are required to report to the state for accreditation.
  • Historically, student performance suffers across all groups when a new test is introduced. We should plan to see a dip in overall student performance on math this year because the state has issued new math standards and a new test. Next year, they will introduce a new English Language Arts test and we can again expect a dip in all student performance then.
  • Some results at T.C. Williams may see a drop this year as a result of these changes.
  • In anticipation, ACPS has been providing additional resources to some students.

What is ACPS’ plan for communicating these changes to high school testing?

T.C. Williams and ACPS have informed parents about changes to SOL testing at a PTA meeting. There are processes in place to notify families what SOL tests students are required to take and whether the student will not be allowed to take the exam because they already met their verified credits for graduation in that course of study.

Read the state’s news release on the issue (MS Word doc).

ACPS, Alexandria City High School