Changes to Spring SOL Testing for High School Students

  • On Wednesday, April 10, the Virginia Department of Education issued a news release highlighting changes in the Standards of Learning assessment program. The news release coincides with the opening this week of the spring non-writing SOL testing window.

    The key messages in the release are as follows:

    • High school students are taking fewer end-of-course SOL tests this spring due to revised graduation and school accreditation standards approved by the Board of Education in 2017.
    • Reducing end-of-course testing allows more flexibility for teachers and more opportunities for students to explore careers and develop the life skills identified in the Profile of a Virginia Graduate as Five C’s: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, citizenship and communication.
    • The new - fewer - graduation requirements became effective with students who entered the ninth grade in the fall of 2018 (class of 2022). Students in grades 10-12 are grandfathered under the old requirements.
    • All students — regardless of when they entered the ninth grade — are no longer required to take an SOL test for a course if they have already earned the verified credit in the content area that they need to graduate.  
    • In addition, new mathematics SOL tests are being introduced at all grade levels this spring, and the end-of-course assessments in Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II are five items shorter than the previous tests.
    • The state is also changing the pass rates for science, history and mathematics tests and will mean new base lines will be set in those subjects.

    What will this mean for ACPS?

    • This will effectively mean a reset for SOL test data. These high school results will not be comparable to previous year results. Do not try to compare results as it would be apples to oranges.  
    • The state’s new approach, that does not allow students to take tests once they have passed, will result in smaller pools of struggling students taking the exams. This is anticipated to impact the data we are required to report to the state for accreditation.
    • Historically, student performance suffers across all groups when a new test is introduced. We should plan to see a dip in overall student performance on math this year because the state has issued new math standards and a new test. Next year, they will introduce a new ELA test and we can again expect a dip in all student performance then.
    • T.C. Williams is likely to be among the first high schools in the state to experience a negative impact from these changes.
    • In anticipation, ACPS has been providing additional resources to struggling students.

    What is ACPS’ plan for communicating these changes to High School testing?

    T.C. Williams and ACPS have informed parents about changes to SOL testing at a PTA meeting and through a general letter of explanation. There are processes in place to notify families what SOL tests students are required to take and whether the student will not be allowed to take the exam because they already met their verified credits for graduation in that course of study.

    Late April through mid-May ACPS will be communicating to media, parents, staff and the community that the state has changed testing policy, effectively established a new baseline.

    This will be done through a news release, media briefing, ACPS Express and ACPS Insider, social media, a Board Brief, superintendent chats, PTA and PTAC meetings and local newspaper op-eds.

    Early August through mid-August before SOL scores are released, ACPS will be re-communicating the changes to media, parents, staff and the community. Media will be invited in for a training session on how to look at SOL scores. The state PIO will be invited to join in this training session as well as testing experts,and ACPS Department of Accountability.

    To read the state’s news release on the issue, click here