SOL testing brings fatigue, frustration for many

Middle school students typically take the most SOL tests

By Jenna Zibton - Anchor

BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va. - SOL testing is going on right now across Virginia.  It's a stressful time for students, parents and teachers.

"I actually had just become an assistant principal in Roanoke County when SOL testing started," said Tim McClung, who years later is now the principal at Central Academy Middle School.

Typically, middle school students take the most SOL tests, including reading, math, science, writing and civics and economics.

"Some students do not test well. We base a student's performance and students base their outlook on themselves based on a one-day test. Which as an administrator can drive you crazy," said McClung.

And this time of year, he sees testing fatigue set in.

"We will have students that will test up to five hours on a reading test. We've had students tested 7 to 7 and 1/2 hours. Our students are pretty good for about the first hour or two on that reading test but then they just wear out. I think I would wear out sitting in front of a computer taking a reading test," said McClung.

Parents sounded off on Facebook too:

"It is way over rated it puts too much stress on kids who were making average grades and I've seen it 1st hand. A child can make good grades all year long and made to feel bad about themselves over one test," said Howard.

"I despise SOL's as well, my kids get severe anxiety over them!" said Barbara.

This year, high school students have to take fewer tests after the Virginia Board of Education reduced the number. They hope this creates some room for developing life skills of the five C's.

"Citizenship, creativity, collaboration, communication skills, and critical thinking. These are skills and attributes that aren't readily assessed with a standardized test and are better assessed with something called a performance assessment. Students are having to take what they learn in a course and apply that in some kind of project that might involve collaboration with other students," said Charles Pyle, VDOE spokesperson.

"Whether they should get rid of testing, that's hard to say. The state is looking at different ways to assess students outside of that one day test. I really think that's the direction we need to head as a state and as a nation," said McClung.

The Virginia Board of Education is not planning any immediate changes right now but say they're always interested in reducing testing and making testing better.

Virginia has to test in certain subject areas based on the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

"The results from the SOL tests allow the commonwealth to identify and assist schools in which students are not achieving at grade level. The tests provide an objective means for measuring achievement gaps between student groups and for determining the progress of schools, divisions and the state toward narrowing these gaps," said Pyle who pointed to the following information from the most recent analysis of middle school reading test-taking times:
· 50% of students taking the middle school reading tests finished their tests in a little over an hour.  
· 75% of students completed the middle school reading tests in an hour and 45 minutes or less. 

These are the current SOL tests for the 2018-2019 school year:

· Grade 3: Reading, Mathematics
· Grade 4: Reading, Mathematics, Virginia Studies (typically)
· Grade 5: Reading, Mathematics, Science
· Grade 6: Reading, Mathematics
· Grade 7: Reading, Mathematics
· Grade 8: Reading, Writing, Mathematics (either Grade-8 Math SOL or end-of-course), Science, Civics and Economics
· High School: Reading (typically grade 11), Writing (typically grade 11), Mathematics (either Algebra I, Geometry or Algebra II depending on end-of-course test(s) passed in middle school), Science (either Earth Science, Biology or Chemistry depending on end-of-course test(s) passed in middle school), History and Social Science (either World Geography, World History I, World History II or Virginia and United States History)

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