Superintendents across Virginia pushing for changes to standardized testing

“Virginia over-relies on standardized testing in our schools.”

This is the statement that school boards throughout the Commonwealth have sent to lawmakers.

The Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS) reported on Wednesday that school boards from 29 school divisions – including New Kent, King William, and West Point – recently passed resolutions calling for a change in the state’s public accountability system.

The New Kent County and King William County school boards approved resolutions last month, while a resolution was adopted by the West Point School Board’s on October 15.

“As a school division, we are not opposed to standardized testing, but rather the over reliance on it for measuring student progress and student accountability. We recognize that the current assessment system does not effectively measure other important factors in a student's academic life such as creative thinking, problem solving, and other practical skills essential to competing as citizens of the world,” said West Point School Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Smith.

Although the King & Queen County School Board has not signed any resolutions expressing their concerns about standardized testing, Superintendent Stanley Jones said in a phone interview that he doesn’t see the Standards of Learning (SOL) testing or Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs) as an effective way to teach students, and that he finds it counterproductive to the educational process.

The 29 school boards are encouraging lawmakers to:

•Reduce the Standards of Learning (SOL) tests taken by students in grades 3-11, which would eliminate over-testing.

•Include balanced assessments (in place of the SOL tests), which could more accurately determine growth in student achievement.

•Use more “reliable and valid measures” of students’ knowledge and application of analytical and problem-solving skills necessary for the future.

•Better prepare students for college and careers.

•Allow failing students to retake tests when they are ready, rather than waiting months to test.

•Take into consideration a “number of important factors” when evaluating teachers, administrators, and schools, rather than over-emphasizing SOL test results.

Doing so would “nurture the sense of inquiry and love of learning in all students,” the New Kent County School Board said in its signed resolution.

Alan Seibert, Superintendent of Salem City Schools and President of VASS, said in a press release that he believes “it’s time to change the status quo of using 20th Century assessments…and ensure that students acquire 21st Century skills.”

“The state’s current system of testing every student 34 times between grades 3-11 is as onerous as it surely is expensive, and efforts to use this one type of test for two purposes by means of a statistical approximation of student progress is seriously flawed," he asserted, adding that, "students and parents in Virginia deserve authentic measures of individual student growth and teachers deserve access to new tools that demonstrate the progress that their students are making."

The 29 school divisions that have signed the resolution include: