VA Dept. of Education releases 2020-2021 SOL test results; outline plans moving forward

Virginia

FILE – In this May 18, 2021 file photo, fifth graders wearing face masks are seated at proper social distancing during a music class at the Milton Elementary School in Rye, N.Y. As the nation closes out a school year marred by the pandemic, some states are now starting to release new standardized test scores that offer an early glimpse at just how far students have fallen behind — with some states reporting that the turbulent year has reversed years of progress across every academic subject. New York, Georgia and some other states pushed to cancel testing for a second year so schools could focus on classroom learning. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — On Thursday, the Virginia Department of Education released the results of Virginia’s 2020-2021 Standards of Learning (SOL) tests taken by students at the end of the 2020-2021 school year.

The testing was canceled at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, so the 2021 SOL tests were the first state assessments administered in two years.

Data shows that the state-wide pass rate fell for each of the three sections of the test between the 2019 test to the 2021 test. The math pass rate fell by 28% to 54%, the science pass rate fell by 22% to 59% and the reading pass rate fell by 9% to 69%.

School officials say that drop was due to disruptions to instruction caused by the pandemic, decreased participation in state assessment programs, pandemic-related declines in enrollment, fewer retakes, and more flexible “opt-out” provisions.

“What matters now is where we go from here, and we will use the data from the SOL’s to identify the unique needs of every learner as our schools resume in-person instruction for all students,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said.

Students were required to take the tests in a school building, however, participation for the three sections only averaged around 78%, which is significantly lower than the usual 99%.

“Virginia’s 2020-2021 SOL test scores tell us what we already knew—students need to be in the classroom without disruption to learn effectively,” Lane said.

In addition, the data highlights the differences between different students groups. Pass rates were much lower for economically disadvantaged students, English learners, and those with disabilities.

“While the impact of the pandemic is clear, the SOL data from last year also highlights inequities between student groups,” Lane said. “VDOE remains resolute in its commitment to supporting educators to close these achievement gaps and help all students succeed in the classroom. Virginia is fortunate to have world class teachers and school leaders that continue to demonstrate their ability to successfully navigate these ongoing challenges and help every student thrive.”

State officials plan to use the 2020-2021 SOL data to help inform initiatives and policies moving forward.

Moving forward, officials say their focus is on acceleration, not remediation. That will allow for educators to maintain student’s trajectory by combining grade-level content with information that students may have missed last school year.

Those efforts are supported by state and federal funding, including more than $62.7 million in $62.7 million in Virginia LEARNS Education Recovery grants, $147 million from the federal American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, $21 million for evidence-based afterschool programs, and $21 million for evidence-based summer learning.

Officials say the accreditation ratings for the 2021-2022 school year will not be calculated. All Virginia schools will receive an “accreditation waived” for the 2020-2021 school year.

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