P. O. BOX 2120
October 30, 1998


TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: Paul D. Stapleton
Superintendent of Public Instruction
SUBJECT: Virginia Standards of Learning Assessments Passing Scores Established by the Board of Education

  Attached is a table listing the decisions of the Virginia
  Board of Education regarding the passing scores for the
  Standards of Learning (SOL) tests.  This is a critical list
  of decisions in that it sets the standards for passing each
  of the tests as well as the point at which students attain
  "advanced" status on the test.  The first inclination of us
  all is to immediately apply these "cut scores" to the
  spring 1998 raw score information.  It would be imprudent
  to do this at this point in a global manner.

  Please remember that there were two forms of each SOL test
  administered in the Spring of 1998.  The Board of Education
  established the passing scores on the predominant form
  (standard setting form).  The Department of Education will
  now engage in equating the second form to the Board's
  established passing standard.  Since different test forms
  may be slightly easier or slightly harder than the standard
  setting form it is possible that the passing score on the
  second form of the test will vary slightly from that of the
  standard setting form. 

  The objective in equating test forms is to ensure that
  despite differences that may emerge in test difficulty, the
  student is not penalized in some way-the passing bar will
  always be the same no matter which form of the test the 

  student takes.  For example, suppose the Board decided
  that, on the standard setting test form, a student must get
  6 out of 10 items correct to pass and 8 out of 10 to be
  advanced.  If the second test form is slightly harder than
  the standard setting form, students might only need to get
  5 items correct to pass and 7 items correct to be advanced. 

  Since not all students in a school division may have taken
  the same form of the test, applying the initial set of
  passing scores to all students' results would yield
  inaccurate results.  The Department is at this moment
  equating and scaling the tests from the spring of 1998. 
  The raw scores from both forms of the tests will be
  converted to scale scores.  The scale score necessary to
  pass each test will be the same across tests and from form
  to form.  This is exactly the same procedure that is used
  in the Literacy Passport Test.  A student needs, on the
  LPT, a scale score of 250 to pass the test.  In the same
  manner, the SOL tests will have scale scores with fixed
  points for passing and advanced designations. 

  The Department will be sending to school divisions
  information regarding the scales shortly.  However, we
  wanted to caution you in the first days after the setting
  of passing scores by the Board, that while the desire will
  be to automatically apply these raw score cuts to your
  current data, it will yield spurious information.  It is
  important at this time to not declare a student to have
  passed, or failed, until you have the second set of reports
  from the Department.  We anticipate you will receive the
  second set of reports in the first half of December.  Every
  effort will be made to accelerate this timeline but there
  just is a lot of processing which must occur to complete
  the second phase of reporting.  

  Should you have questions or need additional information,
  please call the Division of Assessment and Reporting at
  (804) 225-2102.


  Attachment:  A hard copy of this memo and its attachment
               will be sent to the superintendent's office.