Del. Rob Krupicka (D-Dist. 45) introduced a bill this week to reduce the number of state Standards of Learning tests administered to students.
Under the proposed legislation, four of the SOL tests administered to county students would be replaced by project-based assessments. Currently, the state requires each student to take 34 exams between grades three and 11.
“SOL tests have their purpose, but with 34 tests and all the practice tests, our schools have become testing sweatshops,” Krupicka said in a statement.
The bill aims to lessen the standardized testing burden, particularly for students in third through sixth grades. The exams nixed under HB498 include one elementary school science test, one elementary school social studies test and two middle school social studies tests.
High schools would also have the option of replacing science or social studies SOL tests with alternative assessment methods approved by the State Board of Education.
Coming at the start of this year’s General Assembly session, the proposed legislation represents one of the first overtures in a statewide push for standardized testing reform.
More than 50 of the 130 school boards across the state, including the Fairfax County School Board, have adopted resolutions calling for an overhaul of the current SOL assessment system.
“Assessments have their place and we need to know how our students and school systems are performing, but we can be smarter about how we do that,” Krupicka said. “Virginia was a leader in assessment reforms in the 1990s. It is time for us to be a leader again.”
Belvedere Elementary in Falls Church and Lorton Station Elementary in Lorton have both been recognized for raising achievement levels for economically disadvantaged students.
The state Board of Education named the schools Title I Distinguished Schools in recognition of their performance on the state assessments in the past two school years. Schools are identified as Title I when at least 40 percent of their students come from low-income families.
Belvedere and Lorton Station were among 57 Title I schools across the state that maintained full state and federal accreditation under the SOL assessment system for two straight years and also achieved reading and math pass rates of 60 percent or higher.
“Teachers in these Title I schools challenge their students every day to meet the same expectations we have for students in more affluent communities,” state Superintendent Patricia I. Wright said in a statement. “They believe in their students and reject the idea that family incomes predetermine educational outcomes.”
The county’s two elementary magnet schools are currently accepting applications for the upcoming school year.
Bailey’s Elementary in Falls Church is accepting applications for students entering kindergarten through fourth grade, as is Hunters Woods Elementary in Reston for those entering kindergarten through sixth grade in September 2014.
Selection for magnet school spaces is based on a lottery system. To be eligible, students must be working at or above their grade level in math and language arts, according to the school system.
Interested families can attend informational meetings about the magnet programs at the host schools. The informational session at Hunters Woods is planned for 7 p.m. Feb. 4, and for Bailey’s is planned for 7 p.m. Feb. 6.
Applications are available at every county elementary school and on the Hunters Woods and Bailey’s school websites. Completed applications must be postmarked to the school system’s Office of Pre-K-6 Instruction and School Support by March 3.