Changes at the state and federal levels mean that high school students now have to take fewer Standards of Learning (SOL) tests. For students in grades 3-8, all SOL tests remain the same.
“Previously any student in a high school end-of-course class where there was an associated SOL test took the test – no matter what. It didn’t matter how many verified credits they had, everybody took the SOL tests,” according to Tracy LaGatta, director of student assessment for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. “The new system states that all of the same courses have the same SOL tests attached. However, high school students only have to take the test if they need it for verified credit or if it is mandated by federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which requires that students take an SOL for biology, math (algebra I) and reading.”
Verified credit requirements are posted on the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) website. Standard diploma requirements are listed on one page and advanced diploma requirements are posted on another.
Visitors to the site will notice that each page contains two different tables. One is for students who entered ninth-grade for the first time in the 2018-2019 school year and subsequent graduating classes. The other table is for students currently in 10th, 11th or 12th grades. The reason for the two tables is that in 2017, the VDOE revised graduation requirements that affect all graduating classes beginning with the Class of 2022, this year’s freshman class.
As far as SOL test requirements, LaGatta states that the biggest difference is in the advanced diploma verified credits. Here, beginning with current first time ninth-graders, five verified credits are now required compared to nine for previous graduating classes. In the standard diploma, the difference is only one less verified credit.
“Staff at the school will be communicating with students regarding the tests they need to take,” LaGatta said. She added that counselors will be connecting with students about graduation requirements, while school improvement specialists will ensure that teachers know which students need ESSA-required SOL tests.
Will fewer tests mean students are less knowledgeable? According to LaGatta, no.
“Students are not missing out on learning because they still have to take the class and they have to get their standard credit which means passing the class,” LaGatta stated. “The learning hasn’t changed, the standards haven’t changed. The expectations haven’t changed outside of not having to take a test that they don’t need for graduation or ESSA.”
If a student takes an SOL test that is not needed, his or her record will not be affected. That score will be removed from the schoolwide results to ensure that a school’s Standards of Accreditation and ESSA data calculations are correct.
To learn more about these changes, visit vbschools.com.