Apr 22

Changes in SOLs : Another Perspective

Many educators in Virginia, both classroom teachers and administrators have called for changes in SOL structure and assessment. This year, the General Assembly of Virginia responded and reduced the number of assessments by five which allows more opportunities to to develop alternative assessments.  Sounds good?  Maybe, maybe not…here’s why.

In a recent article in the Richmond Times Dispatch, Mr. Chris Braunlich, president of the Virginia State Board of Education, offers a view of this requested and wished for action that highlights financial and learning issuses associated this legislation. His article, “SOLs, Getting what was asked for” presents the flipside of SOL reform by reducing the number of assessments. Among the points made by Mr. Braunlich in his article are:

  • The annual poll of the Commonwealth Education Policy Institutes shows that 55 percent of minorities felt that SOLs improved student achievement compared with 37 percent of whites. Virginia also ranks well in NAEP scores, usually we are competing with the top five states.  Issues to think about for certain.
  • Reform with the SOLs is needed he comments, but will educators get from the the legislators and competing budget bills what they really want?  Is there enough funding to go around for new assessments?
  • Local school divisions will need to develop their own authentic assessments. School divisions which are currently struggling to make budget ends meet for 2014/2015 will find it difficult to to fund new assessments.
  • Computer adaptive testing would help with the authentic assessment, but funds have not been set aside.

Virginia is cutting back the number of current assessments in the short run, but this may cut student assessment also in the long run. According to Mr. Braunlich, “…creating reform on the cheap by off-loading it to school divisions that are ill-prepared to develop the assessments or pay the expense associated with them runs the risk of providing short-term appearance of reform while sacrificing the prospect of transformation that would put Virginia back on the cutting edge of the standards movement.”

If you would like to access the complete article, please go to: http://www.timesdispatch.com/opinion/their-opinion/columnists-blogs/guest-columnists/sols-getting-what-was-asked-for/article_1a9284d0-c265-5172-8a17-d8a2b825bbb1.html