SB 1401 (Pillion) would reduce the total number and type of required Standards of Learning (SOL) assessments to the minimum required by the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). SOLs are used by the Virginia Department of Education to assess student learning and achievement, as well as factoring largely into the Standards of Accreditation. The tests proposed to be eliminated by this legislation would include:
- Virginia Studies
- Civics & Economics
- End-of-Course World History to 1500
- End-of-Course World History: 1500 to the Present
- End-of-Course World Geography
- End-of-Course Virginia and United States History
- End-of-Course Earth Science
- End-of-Course Chemistry
- Grade 8 Writing
- End-of-Course Writing
Current law requires each local school board to certify annually that it has provided instruction and administered an alternative assessment, consistent with Virginia Board of Education guidelines, to students in grades three through eight in each SOL subject area in which a SOL assessment was not administered during the school year. As such, SB1401 bill would require local school divisions to implement local alternative assessments in place of three eliminated SOL tests at the grade three through eight level: Virginia Studies, Civics & Economics, and Grade 8 Writing. The Virginia Department of Education estimates that if enacted, the bill would save the state approximately $1.8 million in costs. SB1401 passed the Senate, 26-12 and was referred to the House Education Committee.
Companion legislation – HB 2094 (O’Quinn) – failed to recommend reporting, 4-4, in the House Education Committee’s SOL and SOQ Subcommittee and was consequently left in committee.
In November 2020, Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. James F. Lane approved a state-level waiver allowing school divisions the flexibility to choose to administer local alternative assessments in lieu of administering the required Virginia Studies, Civics and Economics, and Grade 8 Writing Standards of Learning (SOL) tests in the 2020-2021 school year. VACo supports changes to educational programs and standards that rely less on standardized testing and more on critical thinking skills such as performance-based assessments.
VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett