RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Most kids don’t look forward to SOLs, or Standards of Learning tests, and now some Richmond-area parents are actually choosing to let their kids skip them.
Over the past few years, a small but vocal group of parents has seen an increase in interest and support. They say the end-of-year tests cause students anxiety, destroy creativity, and waste countless hours of time in classrooms. As a result, they are saying ‘no thanks’ to the exams.
When her fifth grade classmates took their seats for SOL testing in early May, Eva Bayer was not with them.
“The tests were easy, but I hated, like – all I could do was read,” said Bayer about finishing early. “Sometimes it would be like two hours because I would be one of the first ones finished and I’d be sitting there like, ‘well…’”
For the second year in a row, her mom decided not to let Eva take the tests.
“The students are considered data,” said Krista Bayer. “They’re not taking the tests for their own sake.”
The Bayers are part of a growing number of families making the same decision. An RVA Opt-Out group on Facebook has nearly 500 members and counting.
“The length of time it takes to prep the test, to do the test- the kids are boxed in. The teachers are boxed in,” Bayer said. “You know they want to pop out of that box.”
But getting out of the SOL box comes at a cost. If a student refuses to take the test, it counts as a fail. What that means on a report card is up to the teacher.
“How much of a factor an SOL test is, that’s really a local decision,” explains Charles Pyle, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Education. “When you get to the high school level, if you opt out of certain tests, you’re putting your graduation at risk.”
Skipping the test can also have an impact on schools.
“We rely on the results of the SOL to identify the schools that need assistance,” said Pyle.
When reporting SOL scores, RVA Opt Out is asking the Virginia Department of Education to provide a separate recording category of “opted out” for students who have opted out of the assessment.
The option would allow the scores of the school to be unaffected by the decision of a concerned parent or student.
It would also allow the Virginia Department of Education to track the number of parents who choose this option for their children, so that the state is informed when making future educational policy.
Krista Bayer says she and other parents will keep pushing to bring comprehensive education back into classrooms.
“We’ve had several other people at other schools who have said, ‘you know what, I’m glad you gave me this information. I’m going to look into it,’” she said.
The state has responded, cutting five SOL tests in 2014. Discussions are underway to reduce the number of tests even more while still keeping track of how schools are performing.
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