Virginia SOL testing could be possible in the fall

VDOE says it could be up to individual school divisions to decide

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ROANOKE, Va. – SOLs in the fall. It is a possibility and a big point of discussion right now among school districts across Virginia.

Pending finalization of all required waivers, the VDOE will not require that students take SOLs for courses they were enrolled in during Spring 2020 in the Fall.

But some districts have requested SOL testing in the fall to determine gaps in learning. If that is allowed, it could be up to individual districts to decide.

Spring testing brings headaches for parents, teachers and students but it also provides important information. That’s why three school districts tell 10 News taking SOLs in the fall have not been ruled out.

“We really feel like it’s a good idea,” said Rob Graham, Radford City School superintendent.

With students out since March, Graham says every school district is doing something to keep students learning but it’s just not the same as face to face instruction in the classroom. Summer slide usually happens every year but now they’re now extending that learning loss to five or six months.

“I feel like if we could get back in the fall and we take the SOL test it’s going to really tell us what our students need as far as remediation goes,” said Graham.

Henry County hasn’t ruled it out either.

“We know testing tends to carry a stigma of stress for students and we certainly don’t want that but we also want them to have every advantage. We know that there are some school divisions who feels strongly against doing the testing in the fall. Certainly it depends on the student population, the student needs and whether that demonstration of growth is going to be important for each individual student,” said Monica Hatchett, Henry County schools Director of Communications. “As a parent I would say it’s a good opportunity for me to look at where my child stands and then to know where we need to go from there.”

Franklin County says being able to track student growth is one of the biggest advantages to a fall SOL.

“At least these tests aren’t make-or-break, they’re just for us to be able to determine whether over the course of time we’ve seen some potential growth,” said Mark Church, Franklin County superintendent.

Church also said he is thinking ahead to SOLs in spring 2021.

“We do worry about the academic slide for our students, especially our students of poverty. The shut down will exacerbate the normal academic slide that we see in in the summer,” said Church.

The Virginia Department of Education is addressing the issue on its website saying:

“Even though it is not required, some school divisions have requested whether SOLs can be delivered at the beginning of the Fall term to determine gaps in learning for students due to the recent school closures and/or as a baseline for growth in the 2021 accreditation cycle. If school divisions choose to administer the SOL reading and/or mathematics tests that 3rd through 7th grade students would have taken in spring 2020 during their new grade level in fall 2020, the scores would count as a baseline for growth for the 2021-2022 accreditation ratings."

VDOE spokesperson Charles Pyle says the Virginia Board of Education will have to address the questions in future calls between school division superintendents and Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. James Lane.

The department is also getting questions from superintendents on many issues including graduation and accreditation. Accreditation is based on many things now, not just SOL scores. Accreditation now includes student growth from one year to the next, in addition to pass rates and attendance.

Pyle says they are aware of all the questions and know they will have to be addressed but doesn’t expect there to be any answers for at least a few weeks. The state board of education meeting that was scheduled for later this month has been cancelled.

“We’re not there yet,” said Pyle. “We’re still addressing immediate concerns about taking care of students while schools are closed.”

“We’re not going to test them to death when they get back in school. I think the number one priority when they get back is to instill that level of learning in them again,” said Graham who is looking into if fall SOLs could take the place of other tests they use for benchmarks.

“This is something that we will have to study further in conjunction with Ben Williams and the VDOE. We do not intend to do this unless there winds up being a reason that we would have to do so. I do not see this as something that we would feel pressured to do,” said Ken Nicely, Superintendent of Roanoke County Public Schools.

Pyle stressed no decisions have been made and there are many discussions that still need to happen.

You can find more frequently asked questions about education, grades, attendance and more on the VDOE website.

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