School board supports SOL test changes

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Grayson School Board resolution says state needs to change testing procedures.

By Staff Reports

INDEPENDENCE — The Grayson County School Board has pledged its support to a movement gaining momentum across the state that calls for changes in Virginia’s testing system.
Grayson joins more than 45 other school boards and representatives of 12 major education associations in Virginia who have adopted a resolution calling for state policymakers to change Virginia’s system of testing and accountability so that it is more effective in preparing students for college and careers and more valid in holding educators accountable for student achievement.
Locally, the Carroll County School Board also has adopted the resolution.
The resolution, which has also been adopted by one-third of the local school boards in the state, urges members of the General Assembly and other state policymakers to:
• eliminate the current pattern of over-testing by reducing the 34 Standards of Learning (SOL) tests taken by students in grades 3-11;
• include assessments in lieu of the SOL tests, which can more accurately determine growth in student achievement;
• use more reliable and valid measures of students’ attainment of knowledge and their application of analytical and problem-solving skills necessary for their futures;
• improve the preparation of students for college and careers;
• allow for failing students to retake tests when they are ready rather than wait months; and
• take into consideration a number of important factors when evaluating teachers, administrators and schools rather than over-emphasizing SOL test results.
Grayson’s specific resolution states that the school board “calls on the Virginia General Assembly to re-examine Virginia public school assessments and the system of accountability for which they form the basis to improve the current accountability system so that it encompasses balanced assessments, reflects great validity, uses more cost efficient sampling techniques and other external evaluation arrangements, allows for expedited test retakes, and more accurately reflects what students know, appreciate and can do in terms of the rigorous standards essential to their success, enhances the role of teachers as designers, guides to instruction and leaders, and nurtures the sense of inquiry and love of learning in all students.”
Other key points in the Grayson School Board’s resolution included:
• “Our vision is for all students to be engaged in more meaningful learning activities that cultivate their unique individual talents, to provide options for students that are designed to respect how they learn best, and to embrace the concept that students can be both consumers and creators of knowledge; and
• “Imposing relentless test preparation and boring memorization of facts to enhance test performance is doing little more than stealing the love of learning from our students and assuring that we fall short of our goals.”
“The members of all 12 education organizations, which adopted the resolution, believe that holding educators accountable for student achievement is important, but not the way that it’s currently done by the state by testing students 34 times in grades 3-11 and by using invalid methods of measuring and comparing student progress for the purpose of evaluating educators,” said Steven R. Staples, executive director of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents and chairman of the Virginia Education Coalition.
He continued, “Educators welcome evaluation in order to receive constructive feedback; however, the state’s method of evaluating their performance based on improvement in test scores by comparing entirely different groups of students, is statistically invalid.”
The Virginia Education Coalition is comprised of 12 major education associations including: the Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals; the Virginia Association of Colleges for Teacher Education; the Virginia Association of School Superintendents; the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals; the Virginia Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development; the Virginia Congress of Parents and Teachers; the Virginia Counselors Association; the Virginia Education Association; the Virginia Professors of Educational Leadership; the Virginia School Counselors Association; the Virginia School Boards Association; and the Virginia Middle School Association.

For more information, go to the Virginia Association of School Superintendents website, www.vassonline.org, and click  on “School Division Testing Resolution” in the left-hand vertical column.