SOL Tests in March?

Some Virginia School Superintendent’s are pushing for earlier SOL testing, writes Kevin Sieff in the June 2nd Washington Post.

Virginia currently gives SOL test to students in late May or early June.  Some district Superintendents’ believe that testing that late in the year leads to bored students with fewer opportunities for hands on learning, and believe that earlier testing, with opportunities for re-testing later in the year for students’ who fail, would improve learning by reducing boredom and reducing the stakes and stress associated with one time-year end testing.  Other district Superintendents’ oppose earlier testing as they believe many students won’t be adequately prepared for the exams and believe that earlier testing with re-testing would result in two track instructional programs – one for students who pass the earlier exams and one for students who failed the exams.

I think they’re all correct and that earlier testing with re-testing for students’ who perform below expectations is brilliant!.  Earlier testing will identify students who need more instruction on certain topics so that the can get the support they need while also identifying those students are ready to move ahead so that they can be challenged.

Reality in our classrooms is that the SOLs set a bar some students struggle to reach and others easily scale.  Unfortunately the emphasis on passing every student means that the priorities in the classroom are on the struggling students as opposed to the students who are ready to move ahead.  The net effect is the struggling students don’t get the time or attention they need to grasp foundational concepts while students who are ready to move on are left twiddling their thumbs.

Earlier testing with re-testing could fix that.  It would allow schools to identify knowledge gaps earlier in the year so that instruction can be geared towards addressing those knowledge gaps, and, by allowing re-testing later in the year, would reduce the pressure of a one time end of year test.     Additionally, testing earlier in the year would allow schools to identify those students who have already developed the knowledge, skills, and understandings necessary to move ahead and provide them with instruction to continue to challenge them rather than have them spend the last half of the year going to the library, supporting their classmates, doodling on their notebooks, wandering the hallways, or disrupting class activities.

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