Poll: Majority of Virginians concerned about impact of SOL tests

Nearly seven out of 10 Virginians say that increased testing hurts student performance or makes no difference, according to a recent poll released by Virginia Commonwealth University.

Well over half of respondents - 63 percent - think that the state’s Standards of Learning tests put too much pressure on students, and three in four agree that preparing for SOLs means teachers can’t cover all the important material needed.

At the same time, 62 percent of respondents agree that the SOLS hold schools accountable, and 55 percent agreed that the tests ensure that students meet the same academic standards. Minorities were more likely to cite benefits of testing than white respondents, and men responded more favorably to testing than women.

The results are based on telephone surveys of 800 adults in Virginia in late December and January. The results were released earlier this year by the university’s Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute. They reflect a growing frustration with standardized testing that prompted the passage of major SOL reform legislation this year.

The General Assembly overwhelmingly approved and Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has signed into law a measure that eliminates five elementary or middle school tests, reducing the total number of mandatory state tests from 22 to 17.

School districts will be expected to develop alternative assessments in their place that are project-based to show that students are learning the same material.

The state’s Board of Education, which is tasked with developing guidelines for school districts, is scheduled to discuss the future of the assessment program Wednesday afternoon, starting at 1 p.m. A live web cast is available here.

Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in the Washington region.
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