Setting Passing Scores on the Standards of Learning Tests: Principles and Considerations
Resolution Number 1998-3
September 29, 1998
The following statement was adopted by the Board of Education:
We believe it is our obligation to communicate, as openly as possible, to Virginia’s students, parents, educators, taxpayers and the public, the principles and considerations that we intend to use as we determine the passing scores for Virginia’s new Standards of Learning (SOL) tests.
The goal of our entire education reform initiative, from the adoption of new Standards of Learning to the development of new Standards of Accreditation, is to raise student achievement.
Helping our students reach the goal of higher achievement will require the good faith and dedication of everyone involved in public education.
Consequently, we intend to set honest, achievable passing scores on the SOL tests. The bar must be set high enough to raise student achievement to prepare them for the world in which they live in the 21st Century. This is especially important for children for whom expectations historically have been too low. However, the bar must not be set so high that it is unrealistic and consequently discourages efforts on the parts of both educators and students to reach it. Achieving this important balance will require a process of continual review and improvement of the SOL testing program, a process that will extend beyond the immediate moment of setting the passing scores.
We will set the scores based on what each child should know in order to succeed in the subject are at the next grade level and beyond. In determining that level of knowledge, we will give great deference to the people best qualified to make that determination: the classroom teachers, principals, curriculum specialists and parents who have spent this past summer working hard to make test score recommendations.
We believe that every child deserves an equal opportunity to demonstrate his or her capability for learning and higher achievement, regardless of the difficulty of his or her circumstances. Thus, we will not manipulate the scores in order to inflate passing rates or to cover up weaknesses in our children’s education. Nor will we set different passing scores based on demographic or geographic data. Either action would do a gross disservice to the school children of Virginia, all of whom deserve high expectations and are equally deserving of help in meeting those expectations, regardless of ethnic, gender or socioeconomic background.
We seek to raise the achievement level of all our children, so they can be successful participants in the 21st Century and responsible citizens of our Commonwealth and nation. We hold a strong faith in Virginia’s teachers, educators and public schools. With the support of parents, communities and public officials, all of us working together as partners, we believe that Virginia’s students and public schools can reach these high standards.
The following considerations will be used as we determine passing scores:
1. Reports from the Standard Setting Committees, comprised primarily of Virginia public school classroom teachers, principals, superintendents and parents, which will contain ranges of recommended passing scores on each SOL test and related data.
2. Contextual issues, such as, whether a test in grades 3, 5, or 8 is in a skill such as reading that is fundamental to success in all other courses.
3. Data from the spring 1998 SOL tests that illustrate for each SOL test the percentage increase in failure rates for every increase of one point in the passing score within the ranges of passing scores recommended by the Standard Setting Committees.
4. National comparative test data, to the extent that it is possible, to compare Virginia’s SOL test performance with performance on national tests such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
This does not represent an exclusive list of considerations, nor will each consideration listed above be equally weighted. Other considerations may enter into our deliberations; however, these will be the primary ones. Of these, the most important will clearly be the recommendations of the Standard Setting Committees of local Virginia educators and parents.
The Board, after careful review and deliberation, adopts these Principles and Considerations for Setting the Passing Scores for the Standards of Learning Tests, as witnessed by the signature of the President of the Board of Education on behalf of the Virginia Board of Education, this 29th day of September 1998. Further, the Department of Education is directed to widely distribute these Principles and Considerations for all to see, so that the public is apprised of the intentions of the Board of Education in this matter.
Kirk T. Schroder, President
Board of Education
Adopted in the Minutes of the Virginia Board of Education
September 29, 1998