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Virginia Standards of Learning test results reflect challenges from pandemic

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Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 1:56 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ/Virginia Department of Education Release) - The results of Virginia’s 2020-2021 Standards of Learning tests taken by students reflect the COVID-related challenges faced by students and schools last year, according to the Virginia Department of Education, and establish a baseline for recovery from the pandemic.

The 2020-2021 SOL test results, required by federal law and released Thursday, follow trends on state tests nationwide, according to VDOE. Pass rates reflect the disruptions to instruction caused by the pandemic, decreased participation in state assessment programs, pandemic-related declines in enrollment, fewer retakes and more flexible “opt-out” provisions for parents concerned about community spread of COVID-19, says VDOE.

Click here for SOL results.

“What matters now is where we go from here, and we will use the data from the SOLs to identify the unique needs of every learner as our schools resume in-person instruction for all students,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said.

The commonwealth’s SOL testing in 2019-2020 was canceled, meaning the 2021 SOL tests were the first state assessments administered in two years.

Students were required to take state assessments in school buildings to maintain testing security protocols. In a typical school year, participation in federally required tests is usually around 99%, according to VDOE. In tested grades in 2021, 75.5% of students took the reading assessment, 78.7% took math and 80% took science.

The SOL pass rates in 2020-2021 were anticipated by school divisions and VDOE, given the impact of the pandemic as reported on local assessments administered earlier in the school year. Pass rates in federally-required SOLs are 69% for reading, 54% for mathematics and 59% for science.

“Virginia’s 2020-2021 SOL test scores tell us what we already knew—students need to be in the classroom without disruption to learn effectively,” Lane said. “The connections, structures and supports our school communities provide are irreplaceable, and many students did not have access to in-person instruction for the full academic year. We must now focus on unfinished learning and acceleration to mitigate the impact the pandemic has had on student results.”

At the state level, the 2020-2021 SOL results will lead to initiatives and policies to help schools and students recover from the disruptions to teaching and learning caused by COVID-19, according to VDOE.

In May, Governor Ralph Northam announced $62.7 million in Virginia LEARNS Education Recovery grants to help school divisions expand and implement initiatives to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on student learning. The Virginia LEARNS grants included funds to address unfinished learning through these strategies:

  • Increased in-person instruction and small-group learning.
  • Targeted remediation, extended instruction and enrichment.
  • Strategic virtual learning, technology and staff training.
  • Social-emotional, behavioral and mental health supports for students and staff.
  • Alternate learning opportunities.
  • Student-progress monitoring and assessment.
  • Planning and implementing year-round or extended-year calendars.

Also, $147 million from the federal American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund is required to be used by the commonwealth to support instructional recovery efforts. The funding includes $105 million to address unfinished learning, $21 million for evidence-based afterschool programs, and $21 million for evidence-based summer learning.

At the local level, SOL results are one of the tools that provide teachers, principals and superintendents with information on where students are excelling and where they are struggling to design instruction and supports that meet their academic needs.

“While the impact of the pandemic is clear, the SOL data from last year also highlights inequities between student groups,” Lane said. “VDOE remains resolute in its commitment to supporting educators to close these achievement gaps and help all students succeed in the classroom. Virginia is fortunate to have world class teachers and school leaders that continue to demonstrate their ability to successfully navigate these ongoing challenges and help every student thrive.”

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