Opting Out of State Tests

CNN recently reported the story of parents who have voluntarily withdrawn their children from state mandated testing (see here).  The parents live in Pennsylvania and have withdrawn their children from state mandated testing due to concerns about the tests themselves and whether they accurately gauge student achievement. According to the report, a religious exemption is the only acceptable reason for withdrawing students from state mandated testing in Pennsylvania.

The report notes that parents groups in several other states have Facebook pages and web sites that offer advice on withdrawing students in those states from state mandated testing.  Because we’re rapidly approaching testing season we thought we’d discuss Virginia’s policies for mandated testing.

Students in public schools in Virginia are required to take the state mandated Standards of Learning exams.  These tests begin in 3rd grade and extend through graduation.  School districts are not allowed to withdraw students from mandated testing and are “scored” on their percentage of students taking the exams.  Inclusion in some middle and high school programs may hinge on SOL test scores and students must pass a certain number of SOL exams in certain subjects to graduate.

However, parents can voluntarily withdraw their children from the Virginia SOL exams without justification.  If their child hasn’t passed the necessary exams to graduate, he / she may not graduate and their participation in some programs might be jeopardized, but no justification is necessary for a parent to voluntarily withdraw their child from state mandated testing.

Parents choosing to withdraw their children from state mandated testing should expect to be challenged to reconsider their decision by school administrators.  This is partly because there is no mechanism for reporting “opt-out” on the SOL exams and the student’s score on that exam will be zero.

There is no established procedure for “opting” your child out of state mandated exams.  We suggest that you notify your child’s school of your decision in writing at least one month before the exams are scheduled and be prepared to have your decision challenged by school administrators.

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66 Responses to “Opting Out of State Tests”

  1. J Says:

    “However, parents can voluntarily withdraw their children from the Virginia SOL exams without justification.”
    Can you please tell us where this info was found? I’d like to reference this in my letter to my child’s school.
    Ty!

  2. pwceducationreform Says:

    J – there is no section of the Code of VA or PWC policies or regulations which give parents the right to withdraw their children from testing. There is also nothing in the Code of VA or PWC Policies or Regulations which mandates that public school students take the SOLs when doing so goes against the parent’s wishes.

    The only language we could find compelled school districts to test every student, and that makes sense as the state wouldn’t want a school district to inflate test scores by only testing top performers. But this language only applied to school districts, not parents.

    If you’re considering opting your child out of state testing we suggest you do the following:
    (1) Send a letter (email or written) to the Principal at your child’s school and classroom teacher notifying them that your child is not to take the SOL exams. Be sure to copy your school board member and the Superintendent for your area.
    (2) Follow-up a few days after sending your letter to ensure that it was received.
    (3) Tell your child that he / she is not to take the SOL exams and to demand to call you if the school tries to force him / her.
    (4) Keep your child home from school on testing day. This serves two purposes (a) it makes it easier for the school because they don’t have to find something for your child to do while the rest of his / her class takes the exams, and (b) it puts less pressure on your child should the school “forget” and give him / her the exam.

    • RGB Says:

      Ms Roxana Hudson is not only incorrect, she is breaking the law. But she will get away with it if Belmont parents do nothing. That is what Ms Hudson is hoping for.

  3. Cassandra Albert Says:

    The problem with “opting out” in VA is the fact that every child is REQUIRED to pass the SOLs to be considered for promotion to the next grade. So if we opt out, your honor student will be retained! Unless my info is wrong!

    • pwceducationreform Says:

      Hi Cassandra! Under state guidelines, SOL scores can not be used to determine placement for the next academic year. So, if your child’s school or your school division told you that your child had to pass a SOL to move to the next grade level, they lied.

      • Cassandra Albert Says:

        State guidelines……hum. I would love to withdraw my child from the SOLs but after fighting with the school board, principal, and teachers I was told that the handbook and school policy REQUIRES her to pass at least one. They actually called me BEFORE the tests results were even in and said they thought she may not pass them so they were signing her up for summer school. I was going to refuse to send her and they said she would be retained, even after making honor roll. As it turns out she passed the Math SOL so she was allowed to enjoy her summer and be promoted to the 8th grade. I have a little while to research this and that is what I will do!

      • Momtoboys Says:

        I agree! The SOLS only grade the schools not the individual children. I always tell my boys don’t sweat the test they don’t count for you. I disagree with using our children to grade schools. I am planning to opt my children out next year

  4. RGB Says:

    Cassandra,
    Would you like some additional help? Virginia law and local PWCS Policy and Regulation do not “require” students to “pass at least one SOL” and non-participation in SOL testing cannot be used as rationale for student retention. Quite simply, as long as we’re talking about elementary school and middle school courses you were lied to. That’s unfortunate.

    SOL participation is only required by state law in order to receive credit towards high school graduation in named high school courses (such as Algebra, Geometry, etc.). Should your child not participate in SOL testing at the elementary or middle school level, nothing bad happens. I know – we have withdrawn our son from PWCS mathematics SOL testing from 4th through 6th grade – hasn’t taken the test; he’s never been retained.

    Unfortunately, though SOL testing has no actual impact on your child’s retention in elementary or middle school…the SOL machinery has a tremendous impact on your child’s teacher, school, and the PWCS school division at large. Schools are “graded” by the number of students who participate in SOL testing; participation below the 95% level jeopardizes school accreditation within the state. Furthermore, even more unfortunately, PWCS increasingly uses SOL performance as the criteria for “grading” teachers. Teachers whose classrooms fail to meet PWCS goals for student passing levels are increasingly faced with the prospect of unfavorable evaluations which ultimately affects their career advancement. This is largely why the PWCS academic year comes to an abrupt stop in the spring and weeks are spent “cramming” for the SOLs.

    Regardless, if you were told that “policy” or “handbook” guidance enabled your school to retain your child for failing to take an SOL and/or failing to meet certain SOL levels of achievement you were quite frankly lied to.

    I am the primary researcher for this topic for PWC Education Reform and I would be happy to help you if you would like. What school are we talking about? Do you have copy of the “School Policy” or “Handbook”? If your school is making up policies and procedures that are in violation of state law and actual PWCS Policy and Regulation this is serious breach of public trust not to mention the angst it has caused you and your family.

    So I’m offering you some help. If you’d prefer, please send additional information to the following e-mail address and your information will be kept in confidence. Should you like one of us to contact you directly you can also leave your phone num and I’d be happy to call.

    Best of luck,

    PWC Ed Reform Research Department: PWC_Ed_Reform at yahoo.com

    • Jac anders Says:

      Id love some help, our child is being forced out of her senior year at washington lee in arlington because we are military and were forced to move off of ft myer. Been thru the appeals process etc.. And now we need to tgy go finx another way for her to graduate.

      • rgb Says:

        Not quite sure I’m making the connection between moving off post and the SOLs. Each school division has policies and regulations governing SOL participation and requirements. If not Washington Lee, what HS is your child transferring to?

    • WTorres Says:

      For Chesterfield County Schools in VA I was told by administration of Thomas Dale HS that my son needed to pass at least 5 SOL test throughout HS in order to receive proper accreditation and a diploma. Is this true? Can he still get a diploma if I opt out due religious reasons?

      • rgb Says:

        WTorres wrote, “For Chesterfield County Schools in VA I was told by administration of Thomas Dale HS that my son needed to pass at least 5 SOL test throughout HS in order to receive proper accreditation and a diploma. Is this true? Can he still get a diploma if I opt out due religious reasons?”

        For HIGH SCHOOL, SOL test participation is required to receive verified credits towards graduation. But for non-high school courses, SOL testing is not required to earn credit in the courses taken. Hope this helps

  5. Kim Says:

    My child attends an elem. school in Lee County and is in the 3rd grade. I would love to opt out of the SOL’s but just today was told by his teacher that they are required to take the SOL’s and pass or they will be retained or at the very least required to take summer school and that would be decided by the school administration. The teacher stated that this is due to a recently signed bill by the governor and a letter will be mailed to all parents. I am unable to find any such information about any new bill stating this and can not find out how to opt out of the SOL’s. Please help.

    • pwceducationreform Says:

      HI! I just called the Governor’s office to ask whether he’d signed any legislation mandating that students take the SOL exams, and was told he had not. I’ve checked the General Assembly Legislative Information System, and no bills were proposed or approved by anyone in the General Assembly that would have required students to take the SOL exams.

      The Governor did approve a bill that requires additional instruction, either in summer school of through a virtual academy, for students in grade 6 – 9 who fail a basic computational exam without a calculator, but that exam can be either an SOL exams or another diagnostic exam. As you child is in 3rd grade, that wouldn’t apply to him.

      If you’re going to refuse SOL testing for your child then you probably want to meet with your child’s classroom teacher and school administration to inform them of your decision. If you child has received passing grades thus far this year, there’s no reason for them to hold him back or require summer school, unless your county’s policies require a passing score on the SOL. If your county requires a passing score on the SOL to move ahead a grade level then that’s a county policy and not a state policy or directive from the Governor and the only way you can get around that is with their permission or if you raise enough of a stink at the school board level that they change the policy.

      • rgb Says:

        FYI – there’s nothing in the Lee County Public School Policies (state or local) that requires passing grades in SOLs as sole criteria for promotion or retention of K-8 students. Instead they’re simply another thing that can be used as part of a set of multiple criteria to determine promotion and retention.

    • maya Says:

      I am in VA and child has failed some standardized testing. They do not reflect child’s grades at all, can not force summer school(it’s optional) and do not fail them based on sol’s. Child is in 8th now and did not do so well on sol’s and they “suggested” summer school. It is my choice to sign her up and she will not fail if I don’t. One thing it might affect is if they are in honor rolls classes and I believe they do look at test scores for placemet of those.

      • KimS Says:

        Placement in honors and gifted courses depends on the school division and their policies. In general, SOL exams scores are not SUPPOSED to be used for admission into gifted courses. Admission for gifted courses is supposed to be based on a number of factors that have nothing to do with testing and are more behavioral. I have a child who has gotten perfect 600’s on SOL exams for several years running and has never been selected for gifted courses.

        I’m not sure about admission into AP or IB courses.

  6. rgb Says:

    For Kim from Lee County – your public school system (http://www.leectysch.com/index.php) lists both state and local policies governing retention of students. The only codified policy restated on your school division’s website relating to SOL participation is a regurgitation of the language contained on the VDOE website. Your school division policy is essentialy the state’s policy and your school division cites state language stating, “In kindergarten through eighth grade, where Standards of Learning (SOL) tests are required by the Board of Education, each student is expected to take the SOL tests. Schools will use the SOL test results in kindergarten through eighth grade as part of a set of multiple criteria for determining the promotion or retention of students.” Link to your school division policy is: http://www.leectysch.com/statepolicy.html

    Under that exact same language that governs Prince William County Public Schools, we withdrew our son from 4th through 6th grade SOL math testing. He was not “retained” in any grade nor was he required to attend summer school. We simply did not send him to school on SOL test day and advised the school that he was not to be tested during any make-up period.

    If your child’s teacher is telling you otherwise, ask to have it put in writing. I doubt the division will do so. In any case, it appears that what you’ve been told by your school is inconsistent with the truth.

  7. Kim from Lee Co. Says:

    Thank you very much for your help and information. I have learned more this past week about SOL’s then the schools have ever shared with the parents. I will be passing this information along to every parent I can. After your post about the change from NCLB to ESEA I started reading, and am still reading info. and believe this may be what my child’s teacher was referring to. My question is, does this change the opting out ability in the coming year? What I have read so far appears to be the same language in the ESEA, wanting 95% of students to take them, and not being a requirement until high school.

    • pwceducationreform Says:

      NCLB is still the law, but Virginia has a waiver. The waiver means Virginia doesn’t have to meet NCLB’s accountability mandates, which would have required 100% of students taking the SOL to pass it by the Spring of 2014.

      The VA Dept of Ed did create new pass rate targets for Math that they revised after scores were released (you can find the revised pass rate targets in the pdf in this article https://pwceducationreform.wordpress.com/2013/01/27/va-doe-blows-off-60-of-virginia-students/). New language arts pass rate targets will be issued after this Spring’s exams.

      To the best of my knowledge, there were no changes in the requirements for taking the exams – meaning that for kids before high school, the schools must test every student, but parents can refuse testing (depending on your local policies and regulations).

  8. Kim from Lee Co. Says:

    I have opted my children out of SOL’s for the first time. They are in elementary and middle school. It was a lot easier than I had anticipated. I had sent a letter to the principle’s informing them of my decision. My daughter is in the 7th grade and today I received an email from her math teacher stating “Your daughter, ____, is a student in my Math 7 class. ____ has performed very well in class and has been an excellent student.
    It has been brought to my attention that ____ will not be completing the Math 7 SOL test. The SOL test is cumulative, covering all material learned over the course of the year, and therefore replaces the end-of-year exam. I use my students’ SOL scores as a classroom grade. ____ will need an end-of-year assessment to replace the SOL score that she will be missing. I will give her a similar test while the other students are taking the Math 7 SOL test. This test will also consist of sixty questions and I will score it using a scale similar to the one used for the SOL test. Over the past two weeks my students have taken two SOL practice tests. _____ scored very well (438 and 461), indicating that she has mastered most, if not all, of the skills covered during this course.
    Another issue that will arise from opting her out of taking the SOL test will be the effect this will have on her math course for next year. The Math 7 SOL score is one of the determining factors for whether or not a student will be allowed to enroll in Algebra I as in the eighth grade. Without this score, _____ will not meet the criteria to take Algebra next year; therefore, she will be enrolled in Math 8. I feel that you should be made aware of these issues regarding your decision for ______ to be removed from taking the Math 7 SOL test”.
    I am unable to find this requirement and feel that this is an attempt to scare us and make her take the test. I restated her words regarding how well she has done and that taking this SOL is not going to tell her anything she doesn’t know already about my daughters abilities in math. I told her to please provide me with the policy in writing and until then my decision stands as is. But of course I want to make sure that this will not affect her ability to take Algebra 1 if we decide she should. I would appreciate any help you can give me in this matter.

    • pwceducationreform Says:

      Please read Greg B’s comment below. It appears that Lee County does not have a policy requiring a passing score on the SOL exam for a student to take Algebra 1 in 8th grade. As such, my suggestion is that you send a letter to your school board member and school Superintendent, with the Principal at your child’s school and her teacher cc’d, requesting that they explain why the teacher and school will be punishing your daughter. As Greg stated, she’s clearly done well in pre-Algebra and her performance indicates that she’s more than capable of moving to Algebra 1. As the policy does not explicitly call for a pass on the SOL for her to advance, they their refusal to allow her to advance is unsubstantiated and little more than punishment.

    • Greg B Says:

      Kim from Lee Cty (reposting my comment from below),
      Taking Algebra I in 8th grade would be considered an “Acceleration” in accordance with Lee County Public Schools policy (http://www.leectysch.com/statepolicy.html). See section “I – Instruction.” Algebra I is a Virginia High School level course (9th grade) so taking it in 8th grade (middle school) is considered “acceleration,” i.e. scheduling an 8th grade student into a subject above normal grade level. The best excerpt from actual Lee County Policy is the one that states, “Scheduling eighth grade students into subjects above the normal grade level should be done with counseling based on evidence of ability, past scholastic achievement, and cooperation of the individual student and his parents or guardian.”

      Notably, it doesn’t say “MUST HAVE AN SOL TEST SCORE.” So from what you’ve shared, 1) your daughter’s done well in 7th grade math; 2) done well on practice SOL tests; 3) will take an end of course test based on the SOL test and that alternative end of the year test will be scored similarly to the SOL test. Yet somehow she will be prohibited from taking Algebra I in 8th grade. Yes indeed this is punitive.

      So just how would Lee County Public Schools treat a student who transfers in to the county having come from another state or been home-schooled and not taken a Grade 7 Virginia Math SOL test but otherwise has a record of solid achievement in math through 7th grade? Refuse to allow the child into Algebra I? Not hardly.

      Your non-participation is a not so thinly veiled threat – take the SOL or we’ll punish your child.

      Here’s the entire language of the current Lee County Public Schools Policy on acceleration (Section I – Instruction):

      “The curriculum and schedule of elementary, middle and high schools shall provide flexibility in placing certain students in programs or subjects normally considered above their grade level. Scheduling eighth grade students into subjects above the normal grade level should be done with counseling based on evidence of ability, past scholastic achievement, and cooperation of the individual student and his parents or guardian.
      When students below the ninth grade successfully complete courses offered for credit in grades 9 through 12, credit shall be counted toward meeting the standard units required for graduation provided the courses meet the requirements of the Standards of Learning or are equivalent in content and academic rigor as those courses offered at the secondary level, or verified units of credit provided the students achieve a passing score on the end of course Standards of Learning tests.
      In any high school credit-bearing course taken in middle school, a parent may request that the grade be omitted from the student’s transcript and the student not earn high school credit for the course. Such request shall be made in the format and by the deadline set forth in regulations developed by the superintendent.”

      I’d say it’s time for a conference with your school’s leadership. Scheduling 8th graders into Algebra I is supposed to be done based on evidence of ability, past scholastic achievement and cooperation of the student and parents/guardian. They’re clearly hoping you’ll cave and take the SOL – let us know how the battle goes! And if they keep pushing, get it in writing and ask them who your attorney should contact…

      Good Luck!

    • Cecily Says:

      Kim,
      I’ve been reading all about how you chose not to have your children take the SOL’s. I am in fairfax county and I also do not want them to be tested. I’m about to write a letter but wonder if you have any advice?
      Hope it went well for you last year,
      Cecily
      cecily12@aol.com

      • Kim from Lee county Says:

        Cecily,
        I had no difficulty with the elementary school and only a little difficulty with the middle school. I even spoke with the math teacher to ensure that my child did not take any SOL’s of any kind. She was less than truthful with me but I held out. My child is in 8th grade and taking Algebra 1. Not taking the SOL did not effect her ability to take Algebra 1. As you can see I received a lot of help from this site, read anything I could get my hands on, and I joined the United Opt Out site where you have access to a multitude of information as well as many examples of opt out letters that you can use. They have also broken down opting out state by state. The powers that be will flat out lie to you, try to intimidate you, and even threaten you or your child. They assume that parents are uneducated about their rights for opting their children out of SOL’s and will try and use that to their advantage. Stand your ground! When they realize that you know your rights and are an informed parent they change their tune. Hope this was helpful. Good luck!

      • RGB Says:

        Cecily,
        Before writing a letter, I suggest you have a conversation with your children’s teachers and the school administration. If you’ve read through the entire thread of the “Opt Out” article on the Blog you’ll get an idea of what to expect. For what it’s worth, our family withdrew our son from participation in the Mathematics SOLs from 4th through 6th grade (mathematics) in PWCS. We did so largely because of the substandard math curriculum – we had to teach the basics at home since they wouldn’t do so in school (Math Investigations curriculum). So we didn’t participate in the SOLs…. And there wereabsolutely NO adverse consequences for our son. He progressed to the appropriate grade level and class placement (advance math in 7th grade, Algebra 8th grade) based on his classroom performance and grades. There was no discrimination against him for our having withdrawn him from SOL testing.

        If you do have that conversation, it’s a good idea to do so early. I would suggest speaking with your children’s school and letting them know you intend to withdraw your children from participation in SOL xyz for the spring 2014 testing period. When you do, expect that you’ll be told that, “All children are expected to participate in SOL testing, and there is no provision in the Virginia law for ‘opting out’ of state testing.” This phrase is factually correct, and is usually enough to dissuade parents from withdrawing their children from the SOLs. So when you’re told that, don’t be surprised. But, the follow-up question you should ask is, “OK, I understand that, but what if I decide to withdraw my children from SOL testing anyway? Will their classroom grade be affected? Will they be retained and not allowed to progress to the next grade level? Will their placement in the next year’s class levels be adversely affected?” The answers – providing your school is in compliance with FCPS Policy and Regulation – should be, “No, their classroom grade is not impacted, yes they can progress to the next grade level based on their grades in the classes throughout the year, and yes, student and his or her parents or guardians have the right to select any course for which the student has satisfied the prerequisite.” In other words, there’s NO adverse consequences to you or your children if you withdraw them from SOL testing in elementary and middle school.

        One caveat – if your children are taking high school level courses in middle school (e.g. Algebra I, Geometry, etc.) state law does require passing the associated SOL for verified credit necessary to receive a Virginia HS diploma. Otherwise, there’s no impact for any other SOLs. They won’t take away your children’s birthdays.

        I did some preliminary homework for you and here’s what it reveals with regard to policy and regulations at FCPS (Fairfax County Public Schools). There are several policies and regulations addressing promotion, retention, graduation, and academic placement services and requirements for K-8 (and K-12) students inf FCPS. All of these are conveniently available online for review and can be found at: http://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/fairfax/Board.nsf/Public. Just click on the “Policies” tab and then select “Regulations” and search away. You can also search by topic at the FCPS.edu website. The ones that apply are: Policies 2104 and 2410, and Regulations 2460.5 2431.4, 3250, the FCPS Middle School Teacher’s Guide R2431 (http://www.fcps.edu/is/schoolcounseling/documents/MSGradingReporting.pdf) and theFCPS High School Teachers Guide R2430 (http://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/fairfax/Board.nsf/files/9DKJEB4CC8EB/$file/R2430.pdf). I know…lots of stuff to look at. A quick synopsis – FCPS does not require SOL participation and SOL scores for grades, classroom placement, or advancement to the next grade level. Providing your children are passing their courses during the year, SOL scores have no impact on their progression or placement.

        So spend a little time familiarizing yourself with the Policy and Regulation pieces – you’ll likely find that at the school level few teachers (and principals)really know what these actually entail. Then have the conversation with your school. Just let them know early on that you intend to withdraw your children from SOL participation next spring and that they are not to be tested during “SOL fever” weeks. We simply kept our son at home during testing day. Good luck – the law, FCPS Policy, and FCPS Regulations are on your side. The choice to participate in non-HS course level SOLs is all yours.

  9. maya Says:

    They do look at their sols for placemet of gifted classes but common sense would say if that was not avaialbe they would look at students overal progress for the year. It seems they don’t always use common sense. Also looks like she is making up the exact same test for her and not calling it an SOL and she has already wasted lots of her time on the practice tests, I would just have her take it since she basically will be anyways. Sad this is how they treat parents and students who opt out of testing.

  10. Greg B Says:

    Kim from Lee Cty,
    Taking Algebra I in 8th grade would be considered an “Acceleration” in accordance with Lee County Public Schools policy (http://www.leectysch.com/statepolicy.html). See section “I – Instruction.” Algebra I is a Virginia High School level course (9th grade) so taking it in 8th grade (middle school) is considered “acceleration,” i.e. scheduling an 8th grade student into a subject above normal grade level. The best excerpt from actual Lee County Policy is the one that states, “Scheduling eighth grade students into subjects above the normal grade level should be done with counseling based on evidence of ability, past scholastic achievement, and cooperation of the individual student and his parents or guardian.”

    Notably, it doesn’t say “MUST HAVE AN SOL TEST SCORE.” So from what you’ve shared, 1) your daughter’s done well in 7th grade math; 2) done well on practice SOL tests; 3) will take an end of course test based on the SOL test and that alternative end of the year test will be scored similarly to the SOL test. Yet somehow she will be prohibited from taking Algebra I in 8th grade. Yes indeed this is punitive.

    So just how would Lee County Public Schools treat a student who transfers in to the county having come from another state or been home-schooled and not taken a Grade 7 Virginia Math SOL test but otherwise has a record of solid achievement in math through 7th grade? Refuse to allow the child into Algebra I? Not hardly.

    Your non-participation is a not so thinly veiled threat – take the SOL or we’ll punish your child.

    Here’s the entire language of the current Lee County Public Schools Policy on acceleration (Section I – Instruction):

    “The curriculum and schedule of elementary, middle and high schools shall provide flexibility in placing certain students in programs or subjects normally considered above their grade level. Scheduling eighth grade students into subjects above the normal grade level should be done with counseling based on evidence of ability, past scholastic achievement, and cooperation of the individual student and his parents or guardian.
    When students below the ninth grade successfully complete courses offered for credit in grades 9 through 12, credit shall be counted toward meeting the standard units required for graduation provided the courses meet the requirements of the Standards of Learning or are equivalent in content and academic rigor as those courses offered at the secondary level, or verified units of credit provided the students achieve a passing score on the end of course Standards of Learning tests.
    In any high school credit-bearing course taken in middle school, a parent may request that the grade be omitted from the student’s transcript and the student not earn high school credit for the course. Such request shall be made in the format and by the deadline set forth in regulations developed by the superintendent.”

    I’d say it’s time for a conference with your school’s leadership. Scheduling 8th graders into Algebra I is supposed to be done based on evidence of ability, past scholastic achievement and cooperation of the student and parents/guardian. They’re clearly hoping you’ll cave and take the SOL – let us know how the battle goes! And if they keep pushing, get it in writing and ask them who your attorney should contact…

    Good Luck!

    • Kim from Lee Co. Says:

      Thank you for all the support. I don’t know if I would have had the courage to stand my ground without such great support. I did respond to the teachers email stating that she needed to supply me with the policy in writing that states she must take the math 7 sol to take algebra in the 8th and that my daughter would not be taking any sol of any kind until I was given the written policy and only then would I reconsider my decision. I also followed up with a phone call to the math teacher to make sure she read the email and if she had any questions. She was persistent. I asked her what taking the sol would tell her, or what new info it would give her that she didn’t already know or have. She did not offer an answer. I told her that if we decided to have her take algebra we would sign her up for it. But that was a decision we would make. The teacher simply asked what I would like my daughter to do while the other kids were testing. I told her that if she didn’t have any instructional work for her then she could sit quietly and read. She said that she would probably be sitting by herself somewhere else because it wasn’t fair for the kids who are taking the test to she her sitting there not having to take the test. My response was that’s because they probably don’t know they have a choice because I didn’t until very recently and my daughter wouldn’t mind sitting alone and reading because she loves to read. So it would seem as though I have won the battle for this year.

      • Greg B Says:

        Hey Kim from Lee County!

        Couple other thoughts for consideration. If your daughter’s had a good teacher and you’ve been happy with that arrangement throughout the year, you might not want to burn that bridge/relationship. In all likelihood, your daughter’s teacher is only relaying to you what he or she has been told by the administration at either the school or district level. So your teacher’s hands may be tied in that regard. And if indeed you’ve been happy with the teacher, you might consider contacting the Principal and letting them know that your decision has nothing to do with the great instruction your daughter’s teacher has provided throughout the year and ask that the Principal make sure no adverse actions or consequences fall on the teacher because of your decision.

        Lastly, just a consideration. Algebra in 8th grade is only a good thing for an 8th grader if they’re really ready for Algebra. In Prince William County Public Schools, the way it works is that upon entering middle school in 6th grade, students who are ready for a more accelerated math program complete the basic 6th grade math curriculum and half of the 7th grade math curriculum during their Grade 6 year, and the remaining half of 7th grade and the entire 8th grade math curriculum during their Grade 7 school year. Hence they take the 6th grade SOL at the end of 6th grade and the 8th grade SOL at the end of 7th grade. So these kids never take the 7th Grade SOL.

        I don’t know how Lee County identifies kiddos for Algebra in 8th grade, but it would be worth a conference with your teacher to understand what things they look for in recommending kids for Algebra in 8th grade, particularly if they really haven’t been exposed to 8th grade middle school math. So you’ll have to be the judge of that.

        Oh, and one last thing. When we opted out of Math SOL day at our son’s elementary and middle school, we simply allowed him to stay home that day to avoid any awkward situations in the classroom. We let him take the previous year’s grade level SOL test at home (you can get them on the VDOE website) just so we had a feel for how well he was doing…then we took him to iHop for lunch!!

        Cheers!
        Greg B

  11. Ann Says:

    My son is in an autism classroom and they are requiring him to take the SOL’s for every subject (he is in 5th grade). I want to opt out now. He already took the writing test (he wrote a paragraph because that is where he is at with writing). These tests are not going to be an indicator of what he can and cannot do, but I have been told he has to take them. I have also been told that it does not affect grades or retention. So, I call the principal? the Autism Coordinator? It is April and he is already stressing. Next year we move to Canada and he will be in a private school, so it will not affect his future whatsoever. Can you send me a template of a letter to use?

    • Rob Says:

      If your son is in a Virginia Public school, there is no legal means for a school or division to force a child to take an SOL at the elementary school levels. The letter of the Virginia law stipulates that all children are expected to take the SOL’s however he only SOLs that are required for graduation )verified credits) are for high school courses. Unfortunately the Virginia law does not preclude schools and divisions from bullying parents into thinking their children must take the SOLs in elementary school. The question you need to ask your school and your division is what will happen to your child if you refuse to allow them to take the SOL. The answer is nothing because the SOLs cannot be used to punish your children . What school division are you in? I would recommend you simply inform your school your child will not be participating and keep them home for the days of the SOLs are offered that’s what we did consistently for three years in a row and never ever affected our elementary schools child’s progress or placement or matriculation to the next grade

  12. Ann Says:

    He has already been through the district mandated CRT’s and they were a disaster. We are in alexandria city public schools

    • pwceducationreform Says:

      Hi Ann! The best thing for you to do at this point is to send an email to your child’s classrooms teacher, the Autism Coordinator, the school Principal, and your elected school board representative informing them that you refuse to allow your child to take the SOL exams. They may try to pressure you, but you have the right to refuse testing for your child in Virginia. If they have any questions or concerns with it, tell them to read Dr Patricia Wright’s guidance letter from last year that summarizes the situation.

  13. Rosetta Pierce Says:

    Last night, April 8th at the Belmont Elementary School PTA meeting, our principal, Mrs. Roxana Hudson, made the statement that children could be prevented from being in advanced courses by not taking the SOLs. After parents chimed in this was false, she stated that receiving a “0” would used as a factor in being considered for placement in advanced courses. This dissemination of false information is really sad. If this was said in public to a group of parents and teachers, what is being said to parents that come in to ask questions at the school?

    • RGB Says:

      Rosetta-
      Children who do not participate in SOL testing do not receive a numerical score or grade for the test(s) not taken. The Belmont principal cannot arbitrarily assign a “zero” grade to a student who does not test. I know this for we withdrew our son from PWCS 4th and 5th grade SOL testing. And he continued in advanced/extended math courses without any consequences. Your principal knows that she was lying to the parents. They are under intense pressure to get maximum student participation to make PWCS’s SOL participation rates look good. Nonetheless whAt she told the Belmont parents was an outright lie.

      If a child does not participate in an elementary school SOL test, the “grade” if you will is simply a “no test” a there is no numerical score associated with the refusal to participate. The VDOE administratively tracks non-participation by coding the record as “zero” but that is not reflected anywhere as a “score” on a child’s educational record.

      If a child has otherwise demonstrated performance in a subject throughout the school year that indicates readiness for advanced/extended courses, non-participation in an SOL test cannot be used as the determining factor in that child’s placement. If that we’re the case, no child transferring into PWCS from say another state, private school, not home school environment would ever be permitted to participate in advanced/extended courses as they would not have participated in SOL testing.

      It’s possible, not likely but possible that the Belmont principal is just confused with the amount of misinformation put out by the PWCS central administration. That said, it’s more likely she’s just engaging in an intimidation campaign. Virginia law, PWCS Policy, and PWCS Regulations do not support her assertions.
      Perhaps you ought to consider filing a bullying complaint.

  14. Kathryn Says:

    Thank you so much for this forum. My son took his first SOL today – 3rd grade reading. At 2:30pm I got a call saying my son was still working on his SOL and I’d need to come pick him up because he was going to miss his bus to after-school care. I said, “No, you’re going to stop that test and put him on the bus! Are you people high?” He’s 9 and they let him sit there for SIX HOURS and take that test. I’m furious. He’s been upset and worried about these tests since he heard about them. He’s on the autism spectrum and is meticulous about things like this. He makes all As and Bs, he’s an excellent student, but he’s literal and no matter how much I tell him not to worry, it’s already stuck in his head that his life practically depends on the outcome of this test. I need to opt out or we’ll be at the doctor’s office treating his stomach ulcers soon. This is ridiculous to do to a 9 year old. This is borderline abuse! We’re in Culpeper, VA.

    • RGB Says:

      Kathryn,
      I don’t think there’s any “border line” about how your son was treated. I am truly sorry you allowed your son’s school to put him in that position. Ultimately, the decision remains yours – If you choose to have your children take non-high school level SOL tests, while knowing that doing so will be harmful to your child (and it sounds like you have some particularly unique circumstances with your son’s educational capabilities), then that’s a choice you make. The school’s conduct may have been reprehensible, but why did you allow your son to be put in that position on the first place?

      When I wrote the article for the blog back in 2011, I did so in the interest of he getting the truth and facts out to the public. We withdrew our son from Grades 4-6 SOL testing (2009,10,11) after getting the facts about what the state law says regarding SOL testing. Those facts haven’t changed. I think the hard part for parents is simply making the decision to do what’s right for your own children – we’re all very conditioned to comply with what we’re told by our school administrators. But when the law’s on your side, you have options. Virginia law does not include an “Opt Out” clause, but it there are no ramifications to children who do not participate in non-high school level SOLs. Again, I’m so sorry to read about what your son went through. I just hope you wil consider not putting him in that position again.
      Sincere best wishes.

      • Kathryn Says:

        Y’know, you’re right; I should have SPECIFICALLY asked if they were going to test my 9 year-old son for 6 hours straight and if he wasn’t done, I should have SPECIFICALLY asked if they were planning to call me at work and ask me to come pick him up. I don’t know WHY I didn’t think of that prior to the test! It is CERTAINLY from a lack of planning on my part that this happened. This is standard procedure for ALL elementary schools and NO other parent would have been shocked had this happened at their child’s FIRST SOL test.

      • RGB Says:

        Kathryn
        I think you may have misunderstood what I was trying to convey. When I said I don’t think your son’s treatment was “borderline” I mean to say that I am on your side – the border was crossed and how he was treated as you described was neglectful on part of the school if not downright abusive. Did the school not send out any information to parents regarding the conduct of SOL testing? The SOLs are “open ended” in the interest of not putting time pressure on students to complete the exam. Hence schools allow children to take as long as they want to finish the test. In fact, in our experience, children who finish early generally have to remain at their desks and read quietly until the entire class has completed the test. The tests aren’t designed as six-hour ordeals; don’t know what happened In your son’s case but it certainly seems that there was a lack of adult leadership and common sense at the school for the school to have let that go on. No elementary school child should have to suffer like this. And please know that it’s within your power to either hold the school accountable for their conduct, seek the school district’s assistance in providing accommodations for your son, or simply deciding not to participate in these tests – especially if they’re harming your son. If you’d like me to do some research into your school or school division policies and regulations I’d be happy to do so and send you what I find. Just drop me a note directly
        Greg B

    • pwceducationreform Says:

      OMG! I have heard similar horror stories and the first thing I wonder is how teachers can allow this to happen. Most teacher I know love children and hate these exams. I can’t imagine any teacher believing that allowing a 9 year old to spend 6 hours on a test is even remotely acceptable. I also think this borders on abusive.

      I am so sorry you’re going through this. You amy want to consider refusing to allow your child to be tested on any exams that remain, and cite how he was treated in this one as justification. Until parents stand up and demand change from our politicians, this sort of thing will continue to happen.

      I am so sorry.

  15. M Says:

    Hello my son did not pass his 10th grade math SOL by one point. So the school is requiring that he retake this SOL. he has lyme disease related difficulties that make it difficult for him to see well and focus for long periods at a time. Can i opt him out of having to retake the SOL and ask that an exception be made in light of how close he was to a pass and also in light of his physical challenges. What are our rights here?
    Thanks

    • pwceducationreform Says:

      The state has a process for alternate testing, which is used for kids with special needs. I’m not sure what the letter of the law says, but it sounds to me like your child has a special need right now that would justify allowing him to have some sort of accommodation (like maybe taking the test in two parts over two different days). I’d contact your child’s Principal and talk to him / her about it. You can also contact the Va Dept of Ed’s SOL testing office and speak with them so that you know if such an accommodation would be possible,

    • RGB Says:

      M –
      I would recommend meeting with your school principal and a representative from your school district’s Testing and Accountability Department. Since you don’t say what school division you’re in, we don’t have the information to be able to fully advise you how best to proceed. Yes- accommodations scan be made for SOL testing when students have physical or other limitations. Additionally some Virginia school divisions have specific policies and regulations that provide an avenue to reward Verified Credit (for high school courses) in the event that students who otherwise have done well in the lass but who may not have passed the SOL by a narrow margin. If you can provide us with the county/school division you’re in, we’d be happy to look at the specifics in your district. But first, do reach out to your school principal and see what your options are.

      • M Says:

        Thank you for your prompt and very helpful reply. The school district is Albemarle county.

      • RGB Says:

        M – got it, albermarle division. I’ll research your division’s policies and regulations and get back to you by Monday. Meanwhile, if you would, please pose the questions to your school principal and let us know what he/she has to say. We find that in many cases the individual schools aren’t necessarily well-versed in the overall school division regulations and policies so it would be nice to know what you find out by contacting the school first.
        Cheers!

  16. POM Says:

    Do you have any information in regards to county mandated testing? Fluvanna County requires students in grades K-8 to take MAPS tests in Reading and Math twice a year, in some cases three times, for a total of 4 to 6 tests over the course of a year, as well as Interactive Achievement common assessments 10 times a year in all four core subjects, for a total of 40 tests over the course of the year. These standardized tests are in addition to the SOL tests, and parents have been told they cannot opt their children out of these county mandated tests. In addition, when parents have tried to do so by keeping their children at home on testing day and made it very clear their children were not to take these tests, their children have been administered the tests without parental permission upon their return. Does the state have a policy for allowing parents to opt out of county mandated testing?

    • RGB Says:

      POM –
      A quick review of your Fluvanna County Public Schools website for instructional policies and testing doesn’t mention anything about “MAPS” tests – so I’m not familiar with this test. There’s a distinction between Standardized Testing described by the Virginia Department of Education (namely SOL tests) and other tests that school divisions across the state may employ to gauge student progress. If some form of standardized testing is being administered to children that’s outside the scope of the course curriculum and results aren’t being used in determining student grades, then I recommend contacting the School District Director of Curriculum and Instruction. That person is Ms. Brenda Gilliam and can be reached at 434-589-8208 ext. 1326. Often times we’ve found that individual school administrators and teachers are simply doing what they’ve been told to do from the District Administration. The question you should ask of Ms Gilliam is to show you the School Board approved Division Policy on standardized testing that addresses these tests you say your children are required to take. I couldn’t find any such policy on the website, so please contact Ms. Gilliam and let us know what you find out.
      Cheers

      • POM Says:

        The MAPS test is also known as the NWEA test. I will attach a link to the comprehensive plan which is on the school website. It does include a testing matrix buried deep within it, although it is not up to date. Please keep in mind when you see a dot on the testing matrix, that does not, in the case of MAPS or Interactive Achievement (also called benchmarks on the matrix) indicate just one test. In the case of MAPS the test is given for both reading and math, and it the case of Interactive Achievement/Benchmarks, the test is given in all four core subjects. The testing matrix in the comprehensive plan indicates that there are no benchmarks in grades 6, 7, and 8 but that is not the case. This year benchmarks, which in the past took place every nine weeks, now take place every 41/2 weeks, and that has not yet been updated on the testing matrix.

        A group of concerned parents has met several times with the superintendent, Mrs. Gilliam, and Mr. Mathieson, the head of testing and accountability for the county. They try very hard to explain why these tests are necessary but ignore parental concerns about over-testing and the lack of authentic learning activities provided because these tests are replacing these types of activities or taking up the time that would be needed for authentic learning. Because SOL test scores improved in the county last year, this method of skill and drill seems to have garnered the desired results, so the fight to reduce standardized testing in our county has become more difficult.

        I’d love to see a Superintendents Memo similar to the one issued by Patricia Wright a few years ago that clarified a parent’s right to opt out of state testing issued in regards to county testing, giving parents the opportunity to opt out of the tests the county mandates.

        Here is the link. http://www.fluco.org/curriculum/Docs/Fluvanna%20SOQ%20Comprehensive%20Plan%202013-%20Adopted%2009-13-2013.pdf Scroll down to Appendix B for the testing matrix, which is on page 49.

  17. Stephanie Says:

    I’ve got a 9th grade in Montgomery County, VA who refused SOL testing in 8th grade last year and intends to do so for the rest of high school. Yes, she knows that she will be forfeiting a high school diploma. She also knows she doesn’t need one to enroll in community college to get an associates degree to then transfer to a 4 year college. Homeschoolers do this frequently now. The issue seems to be grade promotion. Our county policies are written such that a student must take an SOL test to receive course credit, though they don’t have to pass the test. (outside of the verified credits requirements for a diploma) How exactly is “take” defined in these testing situations? I’ve been awaiting a response from the high school and one week later, I’ve heard nothing. I don’t really know what is to be accomplished by not promoting her to the 10th grade. Seems a waste of school resources. You can make a person attend school but can you make them get a diploma? Has anyone one had a high schooler like mine before? Bright, hard working, but firm on their convictions? What are the laws on this?

    • RGB Says:

      I’m curious, given that for high school level end of course SOL testing is required for your daughter to receive verified credits towards HS graduation, what are you trying to achieve by not participating in those tests? While some Virginia public school divisions have provisions for alternative means of adjudicating verified HS course credits it doesn’t sound like yours is one of those.

  18. AMN Says:

    Hi,
    I have an uprising senior who will be 18 in August. He has failed the writing SOL for the third time this year- scores ranging from 363-387. The high school continues to tell him that he must pass this SOL to gradate. He is feeling very frustrated. He is willing to attend summer school in hopes of gaining the needed skills, and retest in July. I have huge concerns that if he is unable to pass it, he will give up. If he passes all his other class requirements, is there a way for us to opt him out of the SOL? I can’t imagine him quitting school his senior year because the school continues to tell him he can’t pass without passing it.
    Thanks.

  19. Danielle Says:

    After educating myself on the SOL testing, I’m at the point of decided to withdraw my child from the tests that will start this year as a 3rd grader. How can I find out if Chesterfield Co will hold your child back for not testing. Our BOE is not very helpful. Looking for advice.

    • Greg Barlow Says:

      Hi Danielle,
      Pretty much all the information you will want to review is on the Chesterfield PublicSchools website: http://mychesterfieldschools.com/
      Click on the School Board Tab on the left side of the page, then when that page opens, click on the “Board Docs” Tab on the right side of the page under School Board. This will open another page from which you can select the “Policies” Tab. Under Policies you will want to then want to look at the 3000-series Instruction policies which provide the details regarding grading, promotion, and retention. It’s really pretty straight forward. In my quick review of those policies, it appears that Chesterfield County’s policies are consistent with Virginia state requirements and laws – that’s a good thing; makes it easy. Briefly, here are a couple excerpts from the policies I looked at:

      Policy 3042 Promotion, Retention and Academic Administrative Placements
      A. Promotion
      Elementary school students. An elementary school student shall be promoted to the next grade level if he or she received passing final grades in both reading and mathematics in the current grade level, as determined by the student’s teacher(s) in accordance with grading practices approved by the principal.
      D. Use of VAP* Results as Sole Criterion for Promotion or Retention
      Regardless of grade level, schools are prohibited from using Virginia Assessment Program (VAP)[1] results as the sole criterion for promotion or retention. (Note: VAP means “Virginia Assessment Program” – SOLs)

      Policy 3170 SOL Tests and Graduation Requirements
      In third through eighth grade, where Standards of Learning (SOL) tests are administered, each student is expected to take the SOL tests. Schools will use the SOL test results in third through eighth grade as part of a set of multiple criteria for determining the promotion or retention of students. Each student in middle and secondary school will take all applicable end-of-course SOL tests.

      So provided your child has received passing grades in both reading and mathematics in the current grade level he or she will be promoted regardless of whether or not the child participated in the SOLs. The local BOE may not be overly helpful in making that clear to parents, but all you really have to do is read through their own policies and that’s where you find your answers.

      Realize however that using the phrase “Opt Out” will always be met with the response that Virginia does not have an “Opt Out” provision for SOLs. This is technically true. However, the key is the language in the state law, and restated in the Chesterfield policies only that children in third through eighth grade are “expected to take the SOL tests.” That expectation is not a mandatory requirement. You should consider how you want to approach your child’s school leadership. I’m sure you’ve read through all the previous comments and accounts of how some schools treat “non-participants” from sending them to sit in a room by themselves for the day or other such nonsense. The approach we used was simply to provide a letter to our child’s school stating that he would not be participating in the SOLs and to make it easy on the school we kept him home on SOL day(s). Just to see what he’d learned over the year, we downloaded the previous year’s SOL test (math) from the VDOE website and he took it at home (the answer key’s downloadable as well). So he finished the test and we took him to iHop for lunch. Not a bad way to spend an “SOL day.”

      Hope this helps!
      Greg B

  20. Danielle Says:

    For anyone with information, my daughter is currently a senior in high school. She has been taking the SOL testing. She has passed her math, reading, we are currently waiting on the writing results at the moment to see if she passed. Today she was brought down to the guidance was adviced that she still needs to take 2 more SOLs in order to graduation walk across the stage. I am trying to get information on what is exactly required to graduate with a standard high school diploma. She at the end of this year will have more than 26 credits because she has took enough classes but we know that because she doesn’t have another language credit she can’t get the advance diploma which is fine. Where can I find what SOLs are required for her to graduate this year with her class. Thank you for all of your help. Pretty much what I have read here is that SOLs testing you don’t have to do in elementary or middle school. High school is required to get your high school diploma. Please help regarding my senior. Thank you Danielle

  21. Barbara Hadley Says:

    My daughter is a special needs student, and will be attending high school next year. I successfully opted her out of SOLs last year, and will again this year, but I opted out for medical reasons. (She has stress related seizures.) Is anyone familiar with any regs/rulings, etc. related to medical opt outs for high school students? She deserves a standard diploma for her hard work all these years, but she just doesn’t fare well with the stress they put her through.

    • Rgb Says:

      Hi
      As a first step I would recommend contacting your daughter’s school and explain your concerns. Virginia public schools have a wide range of accommodations for special needs students, so the first thing to do is start with the school. You may find they can help you without having to go any further – I’d guess that your daughter’s guidance counselor would be a good place to start. If that doesn’t help, the next step would be to engage your school division’s department that administers the division’s special needs programs. They should be able to help.

      And as a favor to everyone else who follows this blog, please write back and let us know how things go

  22. traslochi Pistoia Says:

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  23. Jessica L Thomas Says:

    My son is a senior in Chesterfield County. He has met ALL of his SOL testing requirements however, the school guidance department messed up his schedule his sophomore year, as a result he has taken two years of advanced History but missed World History 2.He opted to take that course his senior year because he loves history and does quite well. Since he has met his requirements I see no point in the stress of him taking another History SOL test that he doesn’t need to graduate. I am willing to write and email administration and his teacher about opting out but want to make sure we have our facts correct……

    • RGB Says:

      Jessica
      I would recommend calling your son’s school and discussing with the principal or whinsiever on his or her staff is in charge of SOL administration in the school. If your Son already has sufficient “verified credits” in history to satisfy graduation requirements, then the only risk is that your son would not receive “verified credit” for his current course of study. Generally SOL participation is required to “earn” verifies credits towards the HS diploma. If has already has sufficient verified credits then not taking the test shouldn’t affect his graduation status. You should however check with the school and not be surprised if the first answer you get is, “Of course he has to take the SOL.” So be prepared to explain his situation and walk through this with the school administrators. A good ser of questions to ask would be, “Does my son already have sufficient ‘verified credits’ in history to satisfy Virginia high school diploma requirements?” And, “If he does, what’s the impact on his graduation status if he were not to take the SOL for his current course?”
      An e-mail likely won’t be sufficient as these sorts of things are best sorted out with a direct conversation with the school.

      And please let us know how it goes and what they say.
      Cheers

  24. Don't want to lose my job Says:

    SOLs — ridiculous!

    I work in a school and some students are starting the tests at 8:00 A.M. and not finishing until 3:30, 4:30, 5:30, and one the other day at 6:30 P.M. Who in their right mind designed tests for a children (elementary/middle school age is what I am referring to, but yes, include high school age, too) that would: 1) be untimed 2) take 6,7,8, or more hours to complete?

    The SAT is for high school juniors and seniors (typically) applying to get into college; it is a 3 hour test that covers reading, writing and math. The AP exams are for high school juniors and seniors trying to earn high school and college credit; it is, again, a 3 hour test.

    So we are giving elementary and middle school aged children tests that are not timed and they feel the stress to do their best on it, so some of them are taking over 3 hours to complete a test in just one subject? SOMETHING IS WRONG! This is not healthy. An adult’s attention span does not cover a 3 hour span very well; we are expecting an 8-13 year old (as well as 14-19 year olds) to take test that they feel compelled to do well on and it is taking them hours upon hours!

    Come on parents, UNITE! Go to your newspapers, TV stations, and frankly, raise HELL!!!! It is time for an end to this insanity.

    Go apply for a job. Wendy’s, McDonalds, Virginia Department of Transportation, Food Lion, BB&T, even the Virginia Department of Education — I have NEVER heard of an employer asking for one’s SOL scores on a job application! Standardized test, accountability, all of that is here to stay — but make it REALISTIC, make it WORTHWHILE, make it BENEFICIAL.

    It is time to end this madness!!!!


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