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Standards of Learning (SOL) Questions & Answers
[1] What are the Standards of Learning (or SOLs)?

The SOLs are the minimum curriculum requirements for student achievement in the upgraded, more rigorous state curriculum. They were developed by the State Department of Education as a response to the fact that the level of academic achievement of students in Virginia has not been adequate for graduates to compete successfully in the international job market nor to fulfill their responsibilities as citizens of Virginia and the United States for the 21st century. The Board of Education firmly believes that all students in Virginia, regardless of their background or where they live, deserve a quality education based on the same standards. Parents and taxpayers should also be able to know how well schools are doing in meeting those standards.


[2] What parts of the curriculum do the SOLs address?
 
The SOLS set forth minimum learning standards for every child from kindergarten through the 12th grade in four major academic areas: English (which includes reading and writing), math science, and history and social science (history, geography, civics, and economics). They also incorporate computer technology learning standards, intended to result in computer literacy for all students before they enter high school.


[3] What grades will be tested for SOL proficiency?
 
SOL tests are given as follows:

grade 3: English Reading, Mathematics, Social Studies, and Science

grade 4: English,Mathematics, and Virginia Studies

grade 5: English Reading, English Writing, Mathematics, and Science

grade 6: English Reading, Mathematics, US History 1

grade 7: English Reading, Mathematics, US History 2

grade 8: English Reading, English Writing, Mathematics, Civics and Economics, and Science

grade 11: English Reading and English Writing

Middle and High School - certain EOC (end-of-courses):
Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry, World History 1, World History 2, VA and US History, Earth Science, Biology, and Chemistry


[4] What are the measures to ensure accountability for student achievement?
 
Accountability is to be achieved in two primary ways. First, students must pass a minimum number of high school SOL tests in order to receive a diploma. A student's test results for grades 3, 5, and 8 must be considered in promotion decisions. These requirements address the problem of promoting students before they are academically ready. The requirements must also meet the demand of Virginia's business community in that all high school graduates have demonstrated ability in essential skills, such as reading, writing, and math.Second, the State Board of Education believed it would not be fair to hold only a school's students accountable for academic achievement. The school must be held accountable to students, parents, taxpayers, and employers. Schools with students not passing the minimum learning standards can lose their accreditation.


[5] What are the consequences of not passing the SOL tests?

Consequences occur at both the student level and the school level. At the student level, a requirement is being phased in that mandates student accountability on the state end-of-course tests. Although the new SOL testing began in 1998, students in the 9th grade class of 2000-2001 were the first required to pass at least six of the end-of-course tests to graduate from high school.For individual schools, the ongoing accreditation of a school by the Commonwealth of Virginia is based on a designated percentage of students passing the test. However, in order to give students, parents, and schools time to adjust to the sweeping nature of the reform, the Board of Education decided to phase in this requirement as well. No individual school can lose its accreditation because of poor performance by its students on the SOL tests until the 2006-2007 academic year.


[6] Why did the majority of students across the Commonwealth perform poorly on the first administered SOL tests?

   
The new Standards of Learning tests have raised the bar for academic proficiency several notches. When performance expectations and measurements are increased, there is an initial lull or adjustment period while students and teachers focus on the new criteria for instruction. In some instances, these first SOLs tested students on material that they had not been taught due to a realignment of curriculum objectives. The Board of Education realized there would be a transitional period needed to meet this sweeping instructional challenge, so they provided a cushion of time to meet these requirements. These scores now serve as a baseline from which schools in Roanoke City, as well as those across the state, can plot their growth as they incorporate new strategies and actions for continuous SOL test score improvement.


[7] Are the SOL tests the only measure of an individual school's effectiveness?

 
Of course not. Learning consists of much more than just assimilating facts, information, and data. But the SOL tests have become an excellent academic measure for students, parents, teachers, school leaders, and the community at large. Classroom teachers will deliver the new curriculum while continuing to promote the true value and joy of a well-rounded education for each student.


[8] Will these new "standards" make a positive instructional difference for the approximately 1,124,000 students in Virginia's public schools?
  
There are great expectations for these new Standards of Learning and heightened accreditation standards. It will take several more years for all students to benefit from them fully. However, everyone should remember that the reform has one primary, overriding goal: to raise the academic achievement levels of all students so they can become productive, successful, responsible citizens of our Commonwealth and of our nation.


[9] How will student and school performance be communicated to parents and the community?


Students' performance on the SOL tests and the accreditation rating of every school will be communicated to parents and the community through an annual School Performance Report Card. In addition to information on the academic performance of their child's school and local school division, the Virginia Report Card will provide information to parents on attendance rates, dropout rates, and school safety. The first report cards of this type were distributed in early 1999. From there, they are given annually to parents in the early fall around the beginning of the school year. They will enable parents, teachers, and school administrators to have a baseline against which progress in academic achievement may be measured.


[10] How can parents help toward improving SOL test score results?

 
arents always have and must continue to play a major role in the academic performance of their child. Students generally do much better in all aspects of their school life when they have a strong support base at home. Parents should continue to talk about school with their children, discussing daily what is being covered in class, reviewing homework assignments, and encouraging reading and participation in stimulating and challenging projects and activities. Monitor your child regularly for possible changes in performance and interest in school, be alert for mood swings or personality changes, and be aware of changes in friends and acquaintances. Through example, show your children that a sound education is currently the highest priority in their lives, that learning is a life-long adventure. Parents should also maintain strong, open communications with their child's teachers, counselor, and principal, especially on matters related to study skills and test taking tips.

The Standards of Learning should not be considered a threat, but an opportunity for students, teachers, schools, and parents to join in a renewed spirit of partnership and accountability to promote academic excellence for all children in Roanoke City Public Schools and throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.