School Board voices support for reforming SOLs

Last week the Hanover School Board unanimously approved a draft resolution that supports experimenting with different formats and ways to measure student progress.

The division will join more than 60 other school divisions across the state, who have already adopted similar resolutions.

Dr. Jamelle Wilson, superintendent

Dr. Jamelle Wilson, superintendent

“It is a balanced approach to student assessment practices,” said Dr. Jamelle Wilson, superintendent of schools.

Last month, Wilson presented to the board the statement in support of reforming “Standards of Learning” or SOLs assessments, which measure student achievement in different subject areas.

Chairman Robert L. Hundley Jr., Chickahominy District representative, had said he thought there could be other ways to measure students’ progress in a more “common sense way.”

At the same meeting a local high school math teacher, Ian Shenk argued that the SOLs provide a “benchmark” for students and teachers to use as a guide.

The resolution will be brought before the Virginia legislature during its current 60-day session.

But the Hanover school division is not the only one working toward reforming SOLs; some state legislators are joining forces at the General Assembly to make reform a reality.

One bill, which was introduced by Del. Thomas A. “Tag” Greason, R-Landsdowne, and Del. Rob Krupicka, D-Alexandria, would reduce the number of assessment tests from 34 to 26 starting in the 2014-2015 school year and change the format in order to involve more critical thinking, problem solving and analytical thinking skills.

One of Hanover’s representatives, Del. Christopher K. Peace, said he supports SOL reform and will try to be a co-patron of the bill, House Bill 930.

The legislation would also form a committee of stakeholders such as teachers and experts, who would suggest improvements for the SOLs.

Peace said as chairman of the Commission on Youth, he had the group study the best education methods nationally and they found that students are over tested.

However, Peace said he has some concerns with potential reductions of testing in history and Virginia studies. It is something that will be a process and will not be solved overnight, he added.

Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-4th, said he is also a big supporter of changing the number of tests administered.

“We need to ensure that kids have the opportunity to develop other skills like critical thinking,” McDougle said.

He said he feels that there’s a consensus with both parties in both houses of the legislature, but McDougle wants to make sure that in addition to new skills that students are tested on, the assessments determine whether or not students meet the bottom line.

The Herald-Progress contacted Hanover’s other legislators but they could not be reached for comment before press time. In addition to the legislation, there is a resolution, House Joint Resolution 41, that creates a committee to come up with options for reducing the numbers of Standards of Learning and how to make the test better.

“We are at the beginning of the process and will see what ends up included and what doesn’t,” Peace said.

 

Posted on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 1:41 pm