No, not that! SOL = Standards of Learning and is the shorthand for those of us in Virginia for the collection of tests students are required to take at different stages in their academic careers. Beginning with the class of ’04, students will have to pass a set of six SOL exams, including ones in reading and writing, in order to receive their diplomas.
But hold on there, not so fast! To avoid some of our seniors being SOL in the conventional sense, some of our state representatives are coming to the rescue. In yet another example of "don’t raise the standards, lower the bar", the Virginia Legislature is considering a bill that would wave the requirement for students "if they attend a school that is not fully accredited by the state — that is, where fewer than 70 percent of students pass the tests". In other words, if enough of your friends can’t pass the test then everybody gets to graduate without it.
Of course, supporters of the bill say they’re only trying to be fair to the students. Actually, it’s more about this:
It is not clear how many students might be barred from graduating because of the new requirements. A survey taken during the summer showed that 11.5 percent of the state’s approximately 76,000 seniors had not passed both the required English and writing exams, but students still had several opportunities to retake the exams.
That’s over 8,000 screaming parents and their kids who will be looking for someone to blame next June. Fortunately for the distinguished legislators, it’s three years until the next election and this session will be over by June. In the end, however, the State Superintendent of Education gets it right.
"You know what I think is unfair? I think it’s unfair that students who can’t pass reading or math tests at a high school level still get a diploma and are sent out into the workforce unprepared," DeMary said. "What this reform has been about is to say that is not all right."
Right! And if you’re going to set standards, first make sure they’re reasonable standards and then have the guts to stand by your decisions.