The Virginia General Assembly reconvenes in less than a month and the Hanover School Board is considering voicing its concerns to the state legislature and proposing ways the state can improve standardized testing.
School officials presented to the board a draft resolution about the current accountability systems in Virginia at Tuesday night’s meeting.
“Could we be doing a better job measuring accountability without doing standardized testing? Is there a way to do that better? Is there a more common sense way?” asked Chairman Robert L. Hundley Jr., Chickahominy District representative.
As part of a group led by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, Hundley said that stakeholders involved in discussions about this subject agree that accountability and testing are needed for school district. But he said the state requires students to take too many tests; right now there are 34.
Superintendent Dr. Jamelle Wilson suggested the board come up with what they think would work to get the job done. Wilson said that more than 60 school divisions in Virginia have adopted a similar resolution and some education associations have expressed concern with the state’s accountability systems, including the Virginia School Board Association, Virginia Parent Teacher Association and Virginia Education Association.
In the end, the General Assembly has the final say, and Wilson said Virginia legislators should be given alternatives or critiques of the current “Standards of Learning,” or SOLs.
“We need to provide [them] with what makes sense,” Wilson said.
A lead math teacher presented to the board the county’s recent state and national rankings in test scores. Ian Shenk, a math teacher at Lee-Davis High School, said that he teaches beyond what the SOLs require and if the tests were removed from the curriculum, his teaching would not be impacted.
Shenk pointed out that if the standardized tests were taken away he would be concerned with teachers teaching only by the book or filling all their time trying to teach students a concept they may not understand.
“[SOLs] created that benchmark, that ultimate guide that everyone is going towards and looking for,” Shenk said.
It is clear that stakeholders are unsatisfied with current standardized testing, said Hank Lowry Jr., Ashland District board member.
“Why in the world can’t we say, ‘Do away with these tests as measurement tools?’” he said.
Lowry told the other members how he has gotten numerous complaints and phone calls about the SOLs and one parent told him they had to find a therapist for their son just to get him through the testing.
But other board members are not as quick to ask the state government to completely throw out the tests.
John F. Axselle III, Beaverdam District Representative, said the SOLs set a standard for students to reach and he did not understand his colleagues’ concerns.
Other members agreed.
Sue Dibble, South Anna District board member, said that they must figure out what goal they are trying to achieve with the current tests and then decide on another way to accomplish the same purpose. She also suggested decreasing the number of tests given to students.
“We have to set our benchmarks somewhere,” Dibble said.
The board did not make a decision Dec. 10, but the draft resolution is slated to come up again in January.