The following letter was sent by one of our contributors to the elected officials on the Prince William County School Board.
Dear School Board Members,
At the board meeting last week I raised concerns about the proposed change in the instructional program in PWCS from “SOL plus” to “SOL only“. Because I was concerned about making “mountains out of mole hills“, I decided to do a bit of due diligence and investigate the practices in districts near us. Fairfax, Loudoun, and Stafford County Public Schools all follow an enhanced version of the SOLs. Fauquier County Public Schools follows a “SOL only” approach, an approach they’ve followed since the SOLs were implemented in VA.
Fairfax, Loudoun, and Stafford all take the SOL Curriculum Frameworks developed by VA DOE, which all districts in the state are required to follow, and revise them where they believe is necessary to ensure that their students are prepared to move on to the next level. For instance, Fairfax Counties Program of Studies has three components : Essential Knowledge and Skills, Expected Knowledge and Skills, and Extended Knowledge and Skills.
- Essential Knowledge and Skills are the SOLs – specifically the bullets from the Essential Understanding & Knowledge and Skills columns from the SOL Curriculum Frameworks. Teachers must ensure that their students achieve this minimum level of understanding before the end of the year.
- Expected Knowledge and Skills are the extra stuff FCPS teachers and curriculum specialists felt were necessary to add to the SOL Curriculum Frameworks to ensure that students are ready to proceed to the next level. Sometimes it’s just clarifications, other times it’s increasing the standard. Teachers are expected to ensure that their students achieve this level of understanding before the end of the year.
- Extended Knowledge and Skills are “things” FCPS teachers believe their advanced and honors students should be capable of grasping. This includes their program of studies for extended Middle School courses and High School Honors courses.
Both Loudoun and Stafford Counties have completed updating their programs of study to reflect the updated and revised 2009 SOLs. Fairfax has completed their update in draft and is awaiting School Board approval of the final version. Officials in these districts began meeting with teachers to develop their programs of study as soon as the revised Curriculum Frameworks were available from the VA DOE in January / February.
Even with the “new and improved” SOLs and despite the expectation of better assessments in 2012, these districts found room for improvement.