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Public schools ease pressure for students, cutting number of standardized testing

Monday, Jul. 14 | By Hannah Dellinger
This upcoming school year Fauquier’s middle and elementary school students, will be taking five less Standards of Learning (SOL) tests.

Legislation to reduce the number and type of SOL testing for Virginia elementary and Middle School students took effect at the beginning of the month. Virginia House Bill 930, also known as Virginia Senate Bill 306, reduces the number of SOLs for third through eight-graders from 22 to 17.

“The decision to reduce the overall number of the SOLs stemmed from the General Assembly’s ongoing dialogue with our school systems, teachers, and parents,” said Del. Mike Webert, representing Fauquier in the 18th district. “Overwhelmingly, we heard concerns that the ‘teaching to the test’ mentality was depriving students of the opportunity to derive substantive value from the material as opposed to memorizing factoids and regurgitating information without having synthesized it.”

Each school division in the state is now required to certify that an alternative student assessment in each area of instruction that the SOL does not test.

The Virginia Secretary of Education will also be required to a committee to innovate SOL testing. The committee will be made up of teachers, parents, school board members, curriculum specialists and lawmakers.

The bipartisan bill passed unanimously in the Virginia House of Delegates and passed 36 to four in the state senate. According to Webert, it is clear that the system needs to change, but it is just a matter of gradually reforming the way that students are tested.

“We wanted to fix this,” said Webert. “Our SOL reform package directly resolves this issue by enabling teachers to emphasize critical thinking, problem solving, and analytical skills while still maintaining accountability in the classroom.”

Principal of Auburn Middle School Steve Kadilak was happy to see the change.

“As far as I’m concerned, at the middle school level, I think that reducing the amount of testing is beneficial,” said Kadilak. “I would like to see them move towards project-based learning and away from standardized testing.”

Kadilak believes that not all students will perform well on standardized testing, however that doesn’t mean that they aren’t performing well in other ways that are more difficult to quantify.

“SOL tests have their place but we have to remember that we’re teaching children and there’s other ways to teach and test success of children,” he said. “If you struggle with taking standardized tests, that doesn’t mean that you’re not learning that just one aspect of the learning process.”

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