Standards of Learning

Recognizing that there is no perfect way to assess accountability or measure student achievement on a single-administration test, I do believe that states need established standards of learning and a system to evaluate individual attainment of those standards.  A recent poll administered by VCU would agree – the majority of Virginia feels that the SOLs are far from perfect, yet they are needed as an academic measure of success.  Perhaps most interesting, minorities and other disadvantaged populations (education level, socioeconomic status) responded most favorably to the need for tests.  I believe this attests to their understanding that ‘gap group’ students will not be ‘left behind’ or overlooked compared to other demographics of students if there is a system in place that requires schools to implement supports that ensure their success.  In my own experience with SOL testing, I find that parents of my lower-performing students are much more willing to ask for additional support, and much more open-minded about mastering strategies, than other groups.  In fact, I spent last Spring calling parents about Writing SOL scores, and my inbox filled up with heartfelt ‘Thank You’ letters.  When a parent senses that you truly care about their student’s individual success, and can see the improvement their student is making from a very official state-approved score, it somehow means so much more sometimes.  They have assurance that their child is truly meeting expectations that do not simply amount to being pushed through the K-12 pipeline.
All this being said, I do feel that there are areas in which testing can be cut back.  Right now, students take many SOLs that are not ‘required’, often in science and history courses. Students rightfully question why they have to sit through a test that they are told they don’t actually need to graduate.  An argument can be made that testing in these areas during the same week as a math or English exam (required for graduation) leads to burn-out and probably negatively impacts the accuracy of any of the scores as a truly valid assessment.  Why not focus on alternatives in those areas to take some of the high-stakes anxiety out of the equation?  There might be significant improvements overall.

“Commonwealth Education Poll finds majority of Virginians are increasingly concerned about the impact of SOLs on classroom learning but see benefits to the tests” Retrieved April 20, 2016, from http://www.wilder.vcu.edu/news/cepi.html

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