During the Fairfax County Public Schools school board meeting August 26, one parent joined the meeting virtually and used her three minutes to speak to inform the school board that SOL scores had fallen, and parents were angered and concerned.
Jo-Anne Sears told the school board statistics about the 2020-2021 SOL scores for the county, and how she wants the school board to step up and do more for students.
“Tonight I want to address the devastating learning loss we are now seeing in SOL scores from last year. Remember when you were focused on spending time renaming schools and telling parents everything was fine? Yeah, not fine. In fact, it is devastating,” Sears said to the school-board. “Here are some facts: ratings and percent’s passing on math assessments for all students went from an 86 in 2019 down to a 61 percent. Reading for all students went from 81 down to 73. Math for ESOL student’s 58 percent down to 19. Math for economically disadvantaged students from a 71 percent down to 34. And before you attempt to claim it doesn’t matter because fewer kids took them, doesn’t cut it. When you dig into this data school by school, you will see that the affluent areas did very well. Whereas the title one schools did not. It’s not good enough to brush this off with excuses like you usually do.”
SOLs, known formally as Standards of Learning, are the Virginia public school standardized tests which set the standards for the commonwealth’s expectations and understanding for student learning and achievement in English, math, science, and social studies.
With many students participating in learning from home during the 2020-2021 school year, students were permitted to take the SOL tests at home or in person, but only the tests taken in person counted towards the Commonwealth’s data for the test. This led to there being a smaller pool of students whose tests were being counted than previous years. Also in a normal school year, students who do not pass the test may take it again, but retakes were limited this year and not as many students had the opportunity to improve their scores with a retake.
Fairfax County was not the only school district to see SOL scores plummet. Other districts also saw a plunge in their SOL scores, such as Arlington County, Falls Church, Loudoun County, Manassas City, Manassas Park and Prince William County as shown by the VDOE website SOL results.
Above the Commonwealth’s SOL score results on the Virginia Department of Education website, they state: “SOL test results for 2020-2021 reflect reduced student participation in state assessments due to COVID-19 and other pandemic-related factors. Variations in participation rates and learning conditions should be considered when reviewing 2020-2021 assessment data.”
Christy Hudson of the Fairfax County Parents Association (FCPA) spoke on behalf of the FCPA about the recent drop in SOL scores. “The massive decline in standardized test scores in Fairfax County Public Schools validates what parents have said for more than a year: virtual school is a poor substitute for in-person, face-to-face learning. The Fairfax County Parents Association calls on FCPS leadership to provide a detailed and robust plan to address the profound learning loss experienced by students in our county since March 2020,” Hudson said. “Parents are not placated by our superintendent’s insistence that FCPS ‘is not behind’ other school systems in the country, when these standardized test scores so clearly demonstrate that FCPS is, indeed, underperforming. Now, more than ever, FCPS students’ academic needs must be prioritized in Fairfax County Public Schools.”
The demand for more to be done for students reflects many outcries from the August 26 school board meeting which was full of parent speakers who were demanding changes as the school year picks up, with mixed reviews on how the county is handling it.
The data from the SOL results will help the Virginia Department of Education assess what areas students will need the most work in and how to adjust lesson requirements.