Photo by Rebecca Faletti
What has been codified in Virginia law since the 1990s is about to change for the Freshman Class of 2022: the state is pulling back on the administration of official Standards of Learning (SOL) tests for the freshman, and classes are struggling to modify the curriculum.
For teachers, this news is nothing new. Standardized testing has been on the decline for years, but the state’s messages haven’t always been consistent. Considering most conversations regarding SOLs have been yo-yoing back and forth, there is much that students still do not know.
“Back in the summer, the social science department was told that they wouldn’t have SOL exams anymore, so the 9th grade world history teachers revamped their curriculum towards a performance- based assessment at the end of the year. Then, a few weeks into the school year they found out that ‘oh, we (the state) changed our minds, we are going
to have an SOL,’ so they had to change their plans again,” says Dr. Christopher Cuozzo, English Department Chair.
Whatever happens, the changes won’t be so earth-shattering for juniors and seniors. The new policy dictates that no student enrolled in a class with an associated SOL will have to take the test if they’ve already earned the verified (that is, passing an SOL-associated class and its SOL) credits they need to graduate.
As one memo from Superintendent Eric Williams says, “Students shall not be required to take an endof-course SOL test in an academic subject after they have earned the number of verified credits required for that academic content area for graduation.”
That change is coincidental with a drawback on the requirements for current freshmen for graduation. Not only will current upperclassmen not have to verify credits they no longer require, but their younger counterparts have lower requirements from the outset.
“This 9th grade class, for either a standard or an advanced studies diploma, you need to have five verified credits. Whereas the 10th, 11th, and 12th grade classes, if they are going for an advanced studies diploma they have to have nine verified credits and for a standard diploma they have to have six,” says testing coordinator Justine Jarvis.
Changes of this caliber have been on their way for a while. The pendulum, from the high point of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 which encouraged state testing, has been swinging back the other way ever since, shrinking testing programs.
“About four or five years ago, the state began cutting back on the number [of tests], especially in earlier grades with social studies and science, and now they’re cutting back even more,” says Cuozzo.