Superintendent's Memo #153-09

State seal, Commonwealth of Virginia

COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA
Department of Education

May 29, 2009

TO: Division Superintendents

FROM: Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction

SUBJECT: Grade 3 History and Social Science Assessment


At its May 28, 2009, meeting, the Virginia Board of Education accepted for first review a proposal to remove the cumulative assessment of the History and Social Science Standards of Learning (SOL) for grades K-3 from the Virginia Assessment Program. Under this proposal the last administration of the cumulative grade 3 SOL history and social science test and the corresponding Virginia Grade Level Alternative and the Virginia Alternate Assessment Program assessments for grade 3 history and social sciences would be spring 2009. The text of the proposal presented to the board may be found at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/boe/meetings/2009/05_may/agenda_items/item_f.pdf

In accepting the proposal for first review, the Board directed the Department of Education to bring a plan and timeline for including reading passages on the Grade 3 reading test based on topics from the K-3 history and social science SOL to its June 25, 2009, meeting. The Board also asked the Department to suggest alternative methods to testing that would ensure the K-3 history and social science SOL will be taught in the early grades. The Board of Education has established a rich set of history and social science standards in kindergarten through third grade and a major concern is that without a test the content will not be taught. Final review of the proposal will occur at the June meeting of the Board.

As the Board of Education seeks to enhance the K-12 state assessment program and meet minimum federal requirements for testing, the Department of Education will need to maximize existing resources. Realigning assessment resources with current and emerging priorities will enable us to better prepare students for college and careers.

The Superintendent's Leadership Advisory Council, which consists of the eight regional chairs and officers of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS), and other educators have encouraged the Department of Education to look for ways to relieve educators of administrative testing burdens, especially in areas where there are multiple tests required within a grade span. In response to this request and the need to maximize finite resources, the grade 3 history and social science test has been identified for possible elimination since four additional history tests are currently administered in the elementary and middle school grades (Virginia Studies, US History I, US History II, and Civics & Economics). Under the proposal presented to the board, these tests would continue to be developed as they are currently with the content covered by each test specific to that included in the SOL for the course. There are no plans for these tests to be developed as cumulative tests measuring the K-3 history and social science content.

The elimination of the grade 3 history and social science test may allow school divisions additional flexibility to integrate the content of the K-3 standards into reading instruction. In support of this literacy approach in K-3, the Department of Education will move towards enhancing the SOL reading tests by developing reading passages using topics from the Standards of Learning in history and social science. While the history content itself would not be tested as part of the Grade 3 reading test, some of the non-fiction passages would be based on topics from the K-3 SOL history and social science. For example, passages on the Grade 3 reading test might be based on the contributions of the West African empire of Mali or about the accomplishments of Christopher Newport or Christopher Columbus.

The Board has received considerable public comment, both written and verbal, about this proposal. Questions about the proposal to remove the assessment of the history and social science SOL for grades K-3 from the Virginia Assessment Program should be addressed to Ms. Shelley Loving-Ryder, assistant superintendent for student assessment and school improvement, by e-mail at student_assessment@doe.virginia.gov or by telephone at (804) 225-2102. Comments regarding the proposal to remove the assessment of the History and Social Science Standards of Learning (SOL) for grades K-3 from the Virginia Assessment Program should be sent to Dr. Margaret Roberts, executive assistant for board relations, by e-mail at margaret.roberts@doe.virginia.gov or by telephone at (804) 225-2924. All public comments will be reviewed as the recommendation is being considered for approval. Individuals interested in speaking are invited to register to speak at the Board meeting on June 25, 2009, during the public comment period.

PIW / SLR / cb