RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia students are taking fewer end-of-course Standards of Learning tests this spring due to the revised graduation requirements and school accreditation regulations approved by the state Board of Education in 2017.
The new graduation requirements became effective with students who entered the ninth grade in the fall of 2018 (class of 2022).
The number of standard credits for a Standard Diploma and for an Advanced Studies Diploma remained the same, but the number of required verified credits — earned by passing a course in the content area and passing the associated end-of-course SOL test — was reduced to five (one each in English reading, English writing, mathematics, science and history/social science) for both diplomas.
In addition, all high school students are no longer required to take end-of-course SOL tests if they have already earned a verified credit in the subject — unless additional testing in mathematics or science or both is required by the Every Student Succeeds Act, also known as ESSA.
The federal law requires annual testing in reading and mathematics in grades 3-8 and at least once in high school. Students must also test in science at least once in elementary school, at least once in middle school and at least once during 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,” Board of Education President Daniel Gecker said. “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 life skills useful beyond school.”
Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane noted that, because of the reduction in testing this year, pass rates for end-of course SOL tests in mathematics, science and history for 2018-2019 will mark the beginning of new trend lines.
“The mathematics, science and history pass rates the department will report for high schools this summer will reflect the achievement of far fewer students because students are no longer required to take an end-of-course SOL test if they’ve already earned a verified credit in the subject area — unless additional testing is required by ESSA,” Lane said. “This is a dramatic change in testing patterns and comparing 2018-2019 pass rates with performance in 2017-2018 would be an apples-to-oranges exercise.”
This spring 2019 testing window also marks the introduction of new mathematics assessments based on the 2016 Mathematics Standards of Learning. The new Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II end-of-course tests each have 45 items, five fewer than the previous versions of the tests.
“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,” Lane said. “It is really exciting to travel around 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.”
While eighth graders and high school students took SOL writing tests in March, the main spring testing window opened on April 8. Students in the western part of the state typically test in April and May, while students in central and eastern Virginia test in May and June.
Virginia Department of Education