State Bd. of Education Sticks to SOLs

June 29th, 2010 by Kim Lenz

The Virginia Board of Education will not adopt the Common Core State Standards, an initiative to set the same educational standards in English and math across the country.

The state board announced Thursday that it is committed to the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) program. It also opposes a requirement that states adopt the new standards to be competitive in federal grant programs.

The announcement comes shortly after Virginia declined to compete in the second round of the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top program. The competition, which encourages states to adopt common standards, didn’t award any funding to Virginia in the first round of Race to the Top.

In a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Gov. Bob McDonnell wrote, “The Virginia Standards of Learning and the corresponding state accountability and testing program have a proven track record of success, spanning four gubernatorial administrations of both political parties. I cannot support setting aside the proven Virginia Standards of Learning program, nor commit to adopt these common core standards that have not been completed, implemented or fully evaluated.” He added that to be competitive for a Race to the Top grant under the current rules, Virginia would have to lower its standards.

The Common Core State Standards is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The standards, which would indicate what each student should understand by each grade level, were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators and experts, according to the initiative’s website.

The final draft, released in March, received nearly 10,000 comments from teachers, college educators, civil rights groups, English language teachers and students with disabilities. The Common Core initiative says its standards are aligned with college and work expectations, are clear and consistent, include rigorous content and application of knowledge, build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards, are informed by other top-performing countries and are evidence-based.

The Virginia BOE believes its standards already meet those criteria, however. In its statement, the board wrote, “The Standards of Learning are clear and rigorous and have won the acceptance and trust of Virginia educators. Whatever adjustments might be warranted to ensure alignment of the SOL with the Common Core State Standards can be made within the process through which the Board of Education exercises its constitutional authority to establish standards for the commonwealth’s public schools.”

The board went on to say its approach makes sense for Virginia because:
•The state’s system of accountability and support is founded on the SOL.
•The commonwealth is implementing recently revised standards in English and mathematics that meet national benchmarks for college- and career-ready content.
•The revised English and math SOL and the Common Core are comparable in content and rigor.
•The subtle differences do not justify disruption to instruction, accountability, professional development and teacher preparation.
•Adoption of the Common Core would leave teachers without curriculum frameworks, scope and sequence guides and other materials aligned with the standards students are expected to meet.
•Virginia’s accountability program is built on a validated assessment system aligned with the SOL; validated assessments do not exist for the Common Core.
•Virginia’s investment in the SOL since 1995 far exceeds the $250 million the state could have received by abandoning the SOL and competing in phase two of the federal program Race to the Top.

The Common Core standards have already been adopted by Illinois and Oklahoma; Alabama and Georgia are considering its adoption. Learn more about the standards here.

5 Responses to State Bd. of Education Sticks to SOLs

  1. Anonymous

    June 29, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    I fail to see the benefit of SOLs. Each Spring, my kid has to stop learning and spend five weeks preparing to take this test. Then during test week, the kids who are not taking the test are shown movies ALL DAY in order to keep them quiet. Administrators do not want to chance that a normal lesson plan for the non-SOL students, along with recess, will distract the students taking the test. Thus even these students lose a week of education.
    Instead of talking about lengthening the school year, we can make up a lot of wasted time by abolishing these wretched tests.

  2. Anonymous

    June 29, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    i would like to hear from teachers who support SOLs. Every teacher i ever met adamantly opposes them. Where is the support coming from? Is it regional? Does NOVA support SOLs more so than, say, east end NN?

  3. Anonymous

    June 29, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    Ideally national standards are preferable to state standards But states and localities should have the responsibility to figure out how to meet the standards, of course. So at some point Virginia may have to adopt the national standards anyway, but it does seem like the national standards may not be ready yet.

    It does seem that the current state administration has its perspective limited to no further out than 2013 — look at how they’re dealing with the budget problems.

    One of the problems with No Child Left Behind is its overreliance on testing. Testing should not be the driver of the education system. But with NCLB, it’s hard to see how anything but testing could be the driver.

    I ain’t a tea party person by any stretch, but the educational system and how it’s paid for is screwed up. We can’t guarantee the safety of our children in schools, cyberbullying is on the increase. Command of traditional subjects is abysmal.

    I once quizzed my college students on the identity of the winning general at Yorktown (just a few miles down the road) and got a lower percentage of correct answers than what the Mount Vernon folks use in their fund-raising letters.

    We lag in math and engineering and yet we can develop world class texters (and sexters) and skate board artists and all sorts of people who can produce and post tacky videos to YouTube. We ought to explode the educational system and restart — but with a different crop of experts than what we got now.

  4. Anonymous

    June 30, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    If sooo many teachers, and I am one, individually, have a profound disdain for our Virginia SOLs, there MUST be concerns! Our “committee” who decides on directions or non-directions for the entire state is out of touch with reality, and it’s time for a change, a REAL change!!

  5. Anonymous

    July 1, 2010 at 1:05 am

    I agree with all of the above, and have never heard a teacher or student say that the SOLs are worthwhile. My son transferred from private school to public, and had to waste valuable class time to take SOLs he “missed” while attending a prep school. With today’s transient society–particularly our military families in the area–it would seem more appropriate to go with a national test so that transplanted children don’t have to endure yet another test in order to prove that they’ve successfully completed the previous grade. Isn’t that what report cards are for?

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