Some students will take a state-mandated fall Standards of Learning assessment beginning this year, in addition to the existing spring SOL and three yearly Measures of Academic Progress Assessments, which will be used to compare student growth during the year and across different years.
State legislation passed in March 2021 requires the Virginia Department of Education to create and implement the fall growth assessments that are aligned with the Standards of Learning. As with the spring iteration of the assessment, parents have the option to opt of the fall testing.
These new assessments will be phased in over the course of the next two school years, beginning with the administration of math and reading assessments to elementary and middle school students this October. Kindergarteners and second graders are not administered the assessments, though.
School Board members expressed concern over the additional testing at a meeting of the Curriculum and Instruction Committee on Tuesday.
“The test taking in elementary is a big stress on all children… five exams is just too much,” School Board member Harris Mahedavi (Ashburn) said.
The MAP assessments are governed and used by the school district as a “universal screener,” and, according to school district officials, provide a better understanding of students’ mastery of a subject than the state-mandated tests do, making them invaluable tools for teachers to understand their students. The MAP assessments are used for students until high school. High Schoolers take iReady Assessments three times a year as a universal screener.
Ryan Tyler, the district’s Director of Research, Assessment, and School Improvement, explained that the MAP assessments are indispensable, and reducing testing by eliminating MAP assessments is not a viable option.
“We are able to project a student’s path from 4th grade, to see whether they’re on a trajectory to be college-career ready by 11th grade. We have longitudinal data points. We’re able to see, are they staying within that path of a student at the 60th percentile? Are they losing ground with a long-term perspective?” Tyler told the committee.
Changes to the data provided by SOLs beginning this year might just offer a solution to the frequent testing; Ashley Ellis, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, said that if the “growth SOLs” provide adequate data, it would be possible to consider eliminating the MAP assessments.
Board member Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge) pointed to the collective learning loss students suffered during the pandemic, which was evidenced in the spring SOL results. The October test date, Serotkin believes, won’t give teachers enough time to understand where students may have knowledge gaps. Ellis responded that teachers will rely on the fall MAP assessments, which are administered beginning on Sept. 7. Ellis acknowledge the lofty task that teachers will face as they return to classrooms full-time, for the first time since March 2020.
“We have already started with school leaders talking about how to address schooling loss from a global perspective… Helping leaders be able to support their teachers when they return,” Ellis said.
Teachers returned to schools on Wednesday to prepare for the 2021-2022 school year, which begins on Aug. 26.