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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
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Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
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SOL reform bills moving forward in Richmond

Friday, January 31, 2014

By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer

Several bills to reform Standards of Learning (SOL) assessments for Virginia students have made their way through the Virginia Senate.

SB270 and SB306, both dealing with reducing the number of SOL tests, have already passed the Senate and have been sent to the House of Delegates for consideration.

SB270, which passed the Senate by a vote of 34-4, would require only math and English reading SOL assessments for third-graders.

"We support reducing the overall number of SOLs our students have to take," said Dr. Mark Church, superintendent of Franklin County schools. "By eliminating the science and history at grade three and focusing on reading and math during the lower elementary years, it should give our students a strong base on which to build." 

"By freeing time from testing, it could also allow school divisions to write and administer appropriate critical thinking and problem-based curriculum and assessments," Church added.

SB306, which passed the Senate by a vote of 24-14, would require only math and English tests for third and fourth-graders. It would also eliminate social studies and writing tests for students in the fifth grade, and add a science test for students in the sixth grade.

"The General Assembly can only do so much because of federal mandates," said Church. "We have to have a science test at each level -- elementary, middle and high school. Reading and math are federal requirements for grades three through eight. The General Assembly can really only make changes to the number of history tests we give."

Regardless of testing mandates, Church said the school division will always teach and assess appropriate curriculum, insuring all students are challenged.  

"Even now with the stress of SOL testing, we continue to focus efforts on going well beyond the SOL structure in providing all students what they need, not necessarily just what is tested," he said.

A similar bill to reform SOL testing has been introduced in the House of Delegates. HB930 has been referred to the education reform subcommittee, but has not been discussed yet.

The proposed legislation would eliminate the science and social studies tests for third-graders, eliminate the social studies test for sixth-graders, eliminate social studies and writing tests for eighth-graders, and eliminate earth science and geometry tests at the high school level.

"We are concerned about eliminating writing at the fifth and/or eighth-grade level," Church said. "With writing 11 being a graduation requirement, the elimination of writing 5 or 8 would need to be addressed consistently in kindergarten through 10th grade."

To follow bills in the General Assembly, visit virginiageneralassembly.gov and type in the bill number under Bills and Resolutions.

 
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