More on Opting Out of SOL Exams in Virginia

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.

Promotion

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.

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16 Responses to “More on Opting Out of SOL Exams in Virginia”

  1. Melissa Says:

    What if I want to opt-out because my child has an IEP and they are using the SOLs as a reason to exclude her from the Gen Ed curriculum? This also keeps her from being more fully included, because their reasoning is that she needs to be in the SpEd room while the Gen Ed students are working on the SOL curriculum or she will be “set up to fail” if she participates and eventually “HAS” to take the SOLs.

    • Michele Says:

      Melissa, I would discuss this with the Office of Civil Rights, just to make sure you are getting fair treatment. That is what they are there for.

  2. pwceducationreform Says:

    I say opt out! It’s your right as a parent to do so, at least until the Va Dept of Ed convinces enough of our state officials to take that right away from us. If your school or school division is doing a disservice to your child, then hit them where it counts and refuse to allow her to be tested.

    I’m not at all familiar with special ed issues, but how can they exclude her from the general education population? Just wondering, but maybe you ought to contact an ADA attorney who specializes in special ed issues in addition to refusing to allow her to be tested.

  3. Katherine Says:

    We just opted out of several SOLs because my child had a severe panic attack. Thankfully our school is cooperating and being helpful. A nurse at the hospital said they are seeing a lot of this at this time of year.

  4. Danny Says:

    I have a question. This is the 2nd year we have refused SOL testing for our children. Our schools have been very responsive and supportive. This could be, in part, because my wife and myself are both teachers in the division, and I teach in the same school. However, today I heard that my elementary children will take an “alternative assessment” on their class testing dates. This test grade would be used later in case our school does not show adequate progress. If this is the case, then they would factor in the scores of this test from the kids who refused testing to buoy our scores. My question: Is this legit? If we’ve refused testing, can they give an alternate assessment without our consent, particularly if it is for the purpose of supporting the school’s scores?

  5. Mary Says:

    My son has completed high school but has not graduated because of his struggle to pass his 11th grade English SOL. He has taken it 16x and has been out of school for 2 years. His life is on hold as he cannot continue to college or gain a decent job as a high school diploma is required for both. He has started to develop depression and anxiety concerns and has made comments of giving up and living on the streets. The school has not been helpful. All they can tell us is that “he can take it again or go for his GED”. Why would he go for his GED if he has completed high school? I am one frustrated and helpless mother.

    • aqtcarole Says:

      Wow! This is the same thing with my daughter! My daughter has a diagnosis of Aspergers, Bipolar and severe depression. She’s been hospitalized numerous times with suicidal ideation and panic attacks. She’s had an IEP since the 3rd grade. She is now 18, graduated with a applied studies diploma and still taking the Math Sol (8th grade algebra) so she can receive a modified diploma. She has already taken the math SOL test 7 times and failed. These past 2 months have been the most difficult for her! From the consistent failing after she studies and studies, the depression, anxiety and pressure has taken the best of her. She’s been hospitalized 2 times just in the past 2 months for suicidal tendencies. I’ve pleaded with the school to please provide my daughter with some alternative testing. The school will not address the situation, instead, just keep scheduling more SOL test dates. My daughter has completed 13 years of school like everyone else. All she has ever wanted was her high school diploma. But sadly, with all the stress this has caused her, she is giving up on that diploma at the very end!! Now I’m trying to explain to my autistic daughter that if she doesn’t continue taking this math Sol test until she passes, she will never be able to go to college. I ask you, how fair is that?

      • aqtcarole Says:

        And to add to the comment I just posted up above….. My autistic daughter has been getting straight A’s her entire school career…..and for what, so ONE SOL MATH TEST can literally wipe out my daughters future of getting her diploma, going to college or just wanting to be alive!

  6. Jerry Winebarger Says:

    Hello.
    My son was absent due to a doctor appointment and missed his (practice SOL) test. He was then given the make up test on a day that he was being tested in other subjects after we were assured he would not be. Then when his report card came home, there was a note saying that what they called a (simulated) SOL test was graded as a Benchmark Test and used in the grade averaging process. Why I asked and was told that they called it a simulated SOL test but used it as a benchmark test. I replied that had it been called by the proper name the significance of the test would have been more apparent and the doctor appointment could and would have been changed as it was a well visit. I also let them know that our evening ritual is different on nights before a big test. How can you categorize something as a practice or simulated test and then use the grade as the score for a test named 100% differently? Can I be given a simulated Pilot’s test and have it affect my driver’s license? Is using a simulated SOL test score as a benchmark test even legitimate?

  7. Karen Says:

    Soooooo…someone above said to opt kids out to punish the school????? What kind of behavior are we modeling for our children when we opt them out to prove a point or hit them where it counts? If this is part of the state mandated education and parents don’t like it, trying to punish schools isn’t helping or solving anything. Personally I wouldn’t want to teach my child a lesson about acting irresponsibly just because I don’t like the rules. Let’s all try to be adults.

  8. sheila Says:

    I feel we are forgetting that the teachers are teaching for the SOL not for the curriculum and the student any longer. That’s what is missing. I feel the SOL is ridiculous if they are passing their classes and finals. I do not opt out of the SOL’s but seriously it is a major issue.

    • Tonya Bowens Says:

      I totally agree with you, Sheila. The schools are no longer teaching the required curriculums any more because they are too focused on teaching these ridiculous SOLs! These test are not for the student’s welfare, it’s for the schools and the teachers! Why should our children be put into stressful situations such as taking these SOLs in order to prove to the state that their school had hit a certain benchmark?? Especially for the one’s in High School! I just think it’s too much pressure and stress on them, especially when they have to study for regular test, then exams, PSATs and SATs, and then if those aren’t enough they also have to pass another test for an ECON class as well??? It’s just too much. If a child excels the whole entire school year, but doesn’t score well on the SOL, how is this fair to student? This is just ridiculous! I dislike the SOL and I wish they would get rid of it all together because it doesn’t serve a purpose at all for the student, just the schools and teachers! They just need to find a better solution for funding!

      • Craig Says:

        I totally agree with getting rid of sol testing. My son, graduated in 2016 but without a diploma because of a math sol. All classes and credits have been met but because of 1 sol my son doesn’t receive his diploma, BS I say! My son has completed 13 years of school, met all classes and credits and has always kept an A-B average. But, he has taken Algebra sol, 7 times and can just not get it. So, this is demoralizing and humiliating to my son. It makes him feel not worthy and most of all depressed. What does this teach my son, nothing! Passed math during school years but 1 test determines the outcome of my sons future. Not fair! Something needs to change.


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