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Virginia Standards of Learning testing data released

VDOE reports lower participation rates, fewer retests than in previous years

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The Virginia Department of Education reported the results of the 2020-21 Standards of Learning assessments Thursday. This is the first SOL testing data in two years after Virginia education officials were allowed to cancel federally mandated tests for the 2019-20 school year.

Here’s a breakdown of how schools did on average in the 2020-21 school year.

  • 69% passed reading tests, compared with 78% during the 2018-2019 school year
  • 59% passed in science, compared with 81% for the 2018-2019 school year
  • 54% of students tested in mathematics passed, compared with 82% for the 2018-2019 school year

[To see the full list of SOL scores broken down by schools for the 2020-2021 school year, click here]

Locally, the biggest drops were also in science and math. The Roanoke City School Board saw the following SOL pass rates in June at a meeting:

  • High School: English - 67.2% pass rate, Math - 65.6%, Science - 57.6%
  • Middle School: Reading - 63.9%, Math - 33.3%, Science - 48.4%
  • Elementary: Reading - 59.2%, Math - 46.6%, Science - 38.7%

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane stated in April that the focus of testing in spring 2021 was on collecting data to identify the academic needs of students and to inform local and state efforts. The data will then be used to help students recover academically from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

  • At the state level, SOL results will provide objective and consistent data to support the development of statewide initiatives and policies to help schools and students recover from the disruptions to teaching and learning caused by the pandemic.
  • At the local level, SOL results will provide data for teachers, principals, superintendents on where individual students are excelling and where they are struggling in order to design instruction and supports that meet their unique academic needs.

“Virginia’s 2020-2021 SOL test scores tell us what we already knew—students need to be in the classroom without disruption to learn effectively,” Lane said. “The connections, structures, and supports our school communities provide are irreplaceable, and many students did not have access to in person instruction for the full academic year. We must now focus on unfinished learning and acceleration to mitigate the impact the pandemic has had on student results.”

In addressing unfinished learning from the pandemic, VDOE and school divisions are emphasizing acceleration, not remediation. Acceleration maintains advancement trajectories for students by combining grade-level content with the teaching of skills and concepts not mastered over the last two years.

Students were required to take state assessments in school buildings to maintain testing security protocols. In a typical school year, participation in federally required tests is usually around 99%. In tested grades in 2021, 75.5% of students took the reading assessment, 78.7% took math, and 80% took science.

In addition, significantly fewer students retook SOL tests during 2020-2021 as a result of the waiver of state accreditation for 2021-2022, and the flexibility for students granted by the Board of Education in its emergency guidelines for the awarding of verified credits for graduation. Students are allowed to retake SOL tests if they fail their first attempt by a small margin. Retakes typically account for an up to 5% increase in school pass rates following first attempts.

While the department has reported the results of the 2020-21 SOL tests, accreditation ratings for the 2021-22 school year will not be calculated. All schools will have the rating “Accreditation Waived,” as during 2020-21.

Only one subject saw statewide increases in the 2018-19 SOL test results. At the time, the new math SOL test reflects revisions to the state mathematics standards approved by the state Board of Education in 2016. The introduction of the new tests marked the end of the three-year transition to the revised standards. 82% of students passed, compared to 77% passing the previous version in the 2017-18 school year.

About the Authors:

You can see Jenna weekday mornings at the anchor desk on WSLS 10 Today from 5-7 a.m.

Samantha Smith joined WSLS 10’s award-winning digital team as a digital content producer in July 2018.