COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
P. O. BOX 2120
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA 23218-2120
SUPTS. MEMO. NO. 171
November 20, 1998

INFORMATIONAL

TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: Paul D. Stapleton
Superintendent of Public Instruction
SUBJECT: Actions of the Board of Education Regarding SOL Assessment Procedures: Alignment, Timing, and Testing of LEP Students

 
At its meeting on October 28, 1998, the Board of Education
addressed several important policy issues related to the SOL
assessment program. These issues were raised by school division
officials and by other interested persons prior to and during the
Board's public comment period as a part of the process for
setting the passing scores for the Standards of Learning tests.
Following its discussion, the Board made three important policy
decisions that will be of great interest to you and your staff.
The following is a summary of the policy decisions made by the
Board:

A.   Testing of Students with Limited English Proficiency (LEP):
     To provide elements of fairness, to assist LEP students, and
     to provide flexibility for schools with significant
     populations of these students when reporting the results of
     SOL testing, the Board approved the following procedures:

     1.   Limited English Proficient (LEP) students will continue
          to take the SOL tests as specified in the SOA; however,
          the scores of limited English proficient students will
          be excluded from the calculation and reporting of
          schools' passing rates on SOL testing for the school
          year 1997-98 and again in 1998-99.  


     2.   An explanation of the exclusion of these scores in the
          calculation will be provided on the School Performance
          Report Card.


     3.   The Department of Education will immediately begin to 
          review the procedures in place and develop a proposal
          to address accommodations and tolerances for
          Individualized School Accreditation Plans.


     4.   The development of the proposal will include
          superintendents and professionals trained in working
          with limited English proficient students.


B.   Alignment of the History and Social Science SOL tests: To
     accommodate both school divisions that have aligned their
     curriculum to the SOLs rather than to the test
     specifications and those school divisions that have aligned
     their curriculum to the test specifications, the Board
     decided that the most equitable solution is to permit school
     divisions to administer the History and Social Science tests
     as follows:

     1.   Allow the Grade 5 History and Social Science Test to be
          administered to students in grade 4 or grade 5.

     2.   Allow the Grade 8 History and Social Science Test to be
          administered to students in either grade 7 or grade 8.

     It is important to note that this option would be available
     beginning with spring 1999 administration of the SOL tests. 
     School divisions would elect this option on a division-wide
     basis not on a school-by-school basis.

     When a school division begins exercising the alternate grade
     option that is outlined above, it will need to test
     potentially multiple groups of students; however, this
     multiple group situation will exist only in the first year
     in which the option is exercised.  For example, if an
     election is exercised this spring for fourth-grade students
     to take the test, students in grade 4 would take the grade 5
     History and Social Studies test as well as the students
     currently enrolled in grade 5.  The same would be true for
     seventh and eighth grade students: students in grade 7 would
     take the grade 8 History and Social Science SOL test, as
     well as students currently enrolled in grade 8.  

C.   Timing of the SOL Testing: There has been continued concern
     regarding the timing of the administration of the SOL tests. 
     In light of the requirements in the Standards of
     Accreditation that SOL test results be received by school
     divisions prior to the close of the school year or semester,
     the Board has:

     1.   Reduced the scoring turnaround time: The Department of
          Education has worked with the scoring contractor to
          reduce the scoring time by one week from that required
          last year.  These efforts will continue.

     2.   Encouraged optimization of the time period ("testing
          window") for administering the tests.  School divisions
          will continue to determine their own testing window
          based upon local needs.

     3.   Addressing the various scheduling configurations: The
          Department of Education will address the differences in
          instructional time between 4 X 4 schedules and those of
          year-long or traditional schedules by making
          adjustments in the testing windows as applicable.  The
          Department will continue to work with school divisions
          to arrange suitable testing schedules for each
          division.

     Related factors: The Department of Education anticipates
     that as the Department and the divisions become more
     familiar with the SOL testing procedures, there will be
     greater efficiency in processing materials, thereby
     impacting the local testing window.


Other Issues Regarding the SOL Testing Program

Several inquiries have been made concerning changing the schedule
of secondary school students after the school year has begun. In
preparing for the testing program, it is important to consider
that changing the schedules of secondary school students after
the school year has begun may be in conflict with the intent of 8
VAC 20-131-30   of the Regulations Establishing Standards for
Accrediting Public School in Virginia, which states:

     Each student in middle and secondary schools shall take
     all applicable end-of-course SOL tests following course
     instruction. Students who achieve a passing score on an
     end-of-course SOL test shall be awarded a verified unit
     of credit in that course. Students may earn verified
     credits in any courses for which end-of-course SOL
     tests are available. Middle and secondary schools may
     consider the student's end-of-course SOL test score in
     determining the student's final course grade. 

Students in middle and secondary schools who are enrolled in
courses for high school credit, for which there are SOL tests,
are expected to take the tests during the semester in which they
are expected to complete the courses.  Superintendent's
Memorandum No. 2, INTERPRETIVE, dated July 24, 1998, which stated
that school divisions may develop and implement policies
regarding changing schedules or dropping and adding courses for
middle school students who take courses for high school credit,
is equally applicable to policies regarding changing schedules or
adding/dropping courses by secondary school students.

The development and implementation of such policies is the
responsibility of local school boards.  We would caution,
however, that policies that give the appearance of allowing
students to circumvent the required SOL testing should be
avoided.  I would also like to remind you that as you review and
revise your promotion and retention policies, the standards
expressly prohibit policies that would "...systematically exclude
students from membership in a grade or course in which SOL tests
are to be administered."

Should you need additional information, please contact Diane
Atkinson, Assistant Superintendent of Policy and Public Affairs,
at (804)225-2403.  Questions regarding the assessment issues may
be directed to Ms. Cameron Harris, Assistant Superintendent of
Assessment and Reporting, at (804)225-2102.  Questions regarding
accreditation issues should be directed to Charles W. Finley,
Director of Accreditation, at (804) 786-9421.

PDS/dta