Governor signs bill to scale back SOL tests

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) – SOL testing is being scaled back, thanks to a bill recently signed by Governor Terry McAuliffe.

The bill eliminates five tests for elementary and middle school students. Instead, they’ll complete project-based assessments, and many educators say this is a step in the right direction. The changes will come as early as next year.

“I feel like now after a few years of no child left behind, everyone realizes that we’re testing just to be testing,” said Thomas Calhoun, President of the Norfolk Federation of Teachers. “It’s impossible to be in that setting and not teach to the test. It’s not a flaw, it’s impossible not to.”

Because of the new legislation, science and history SOL tests for 3rd graders will be cut, and writing for 5th graders, and history for 6th and 7th graders will be eliminated, starting next year.

Amy Cashwell, Chief Academic Officer for Virginia Beach Public Schools, said while there’s still a lot to consider for a district so large and they are still waiting on the state guidelines to come down, they have already begun to evaluate what they are doing now and asking themselves pivotal questions about how they thing things could be improved.

“We’re pleased to have the flexibility that this will allow us as a school division, to employ some assessments that are a little bit more comprehensive than the standard multiple choice assessments,” Cashwell said. “We ask ourselves, how are we assessing students, not only for the core curricular components that are aligned to the state framework, but that also embed our 21st century skills.”

Calhoun said there hasn’t been much time for applied knowledge and concepts, like problem solving and critical thinking.

The bill is seen as a response to a public outcry well-received. The five tests cut still leave the total number of tests at 17. The number of SOL tests in high school will remain at 12.

Cashwell said hopefully in coming years there will also be more flexibility for other grade levels and subject areas. You can count on 10 On Your Side to let you know the latest news on SOL developments.

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