Parents refusing to allow their children to be tested on state exams has been a hot topic of late across the nation. The Washington Post recently ran several stories about the issue focusing on the statutes in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington DC. One article stated that Students in the DC area can’t opt out state standardized tests. The article quoted Charles Pyle, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Education, as stating, “all students in tested grade levels and courses are expected to participate in Virginia’s SOL assessment program, unless specifically exempted by state or federal law or by Board of Education regulations.”
While Mr Pyle is correct that there is no opt out provision in state law, as is often the case with education bureaucrats, he omitted a few things. While there is no opt out provision in state law, there is no law, policy, or regulation that prohibits parents from refusing to allow their children to be tested. Your child will receive a zero as their SOL exam scores, but he / she will not be forced to take any exam that you as a parent have refused to allow him / her to take.
State law does require students to pass SOL exams in certain high school level courses to graduate, like English 11, Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Earth Science, Biology, Chemistry, World History Part I, World History Part II, and U.S. History. If your child doesn’t take and pass these SOL exams, they won’t graduate. So, if you want your child to graduate from high school, they have to take and pass these SOL exams.
While state law requires students to pass those exams to graduate, state law does not require students to pass their grade level exams. Passing scores on grade level SOL exams are not required per state law for a student to move up a grade level. State law does not require remedial instruction or summer school for students who fail their grade level SOL exams. State law does not define what criteria are used to identify students for gifted courses or more advanced instruction. The state leaves those decisions to the local school divisions.
Each school division / school board has the authority to pass policies and regulations that govern how their school division operates, including establishing criteria for promotion, inclusion in remedial courses, inclusion in gifted or advanced courses, and awarding of grades. Depending on the policies of your school division, your child’s SOL exam scores may or may not play a role in whether they move up a grade, have to go to summer school, can participate in gifted or more advanced courses, or in the grades they receive.
Some local school divisions require students to pass their Math and Language Arts SOL exams to move up a grade level, while others do not. Most school divisions use the Math and Language Arts SOL exam scores as just one of the many indicators used to determine advancement or retention, with grades, teacher recommendation, and scores on formative tests given throughout the year as a the primary indicators.
Parents who are going to refuse SOL testing for their children need to be aware of their local school division’s policies on promotion.
Inclusion in Remedial Courses
Remedial courses, or remediation, is required by state law for students who are falling behind. How a student is determined to be falling behind is left for local school divisions to define. Some school divisions require students to attend remedial courses or summer school if they fail either their Math or Language Arts SOL exam. Most use multiple criteria to determine inclusion in remedial courses, but some require summer school for any student who fails their Math or Language Arts SOL exam. Since that zero is a failing score, students in those school divisions who do not take the Math or Language Arts SOL exam will be required to attend summer school or other remedial courses.
Parents who are going to refuse SOL testing for their children need to be aware of their local school division’s policies on remediation / summer school / and remedial instruction.
Inclusion in Gifted or More Advanced Courses
State law requires school divisions to provide special instruction for students assessed as gifted, but leaves determining what criteria are used to identify a child as gifted up to the local school division. Some, not many, school divisions use SOL exam scores as a factor in determining whether a child is or is not gifted, so that zero on a Math or Language Arts SOL exam might preclude a child from being included in gifted courses.
Additionally, many school divisions begin offering more advanced courses in 6th grade in Math and Language Arts. For instance, most school divisions offer Algebra I in 8th grade to students who are “Algebra ready”. Some school divisions use SOL exam scores to determine whether a student is or is not “Algebra Ready”. So that zero on the 8th grade Math SOL exam could preclude a child from taking Algebra I in 8th grade. With the course progression followed in most school divisions, that means the child will not be able to take Calculus in 12th grade.
Parents who are going to refuse SOL testing for their children need to be aware of their local school division’s policies on inclusion in gifted and more advanced courses, particularly middle school level courses.
Awarding of Grades
Some teachers, schools, and / or school divisions award the SOL exam score as the final exam grade or as the equivalent of a test. As any child opting out of SOL testing will be receiving a zero on that test, the impact of a zero in a final exam or as a test score can be significant.
Parents who are going to refuse SOL testing for their children need to be aware of grading policy in their local school division, at their child’s school, and with their child’s teacher.