State Board of Education waives some SOL requirements

Virus Outbreak Virginia

Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. James Lane (right) answered a question during a press briefing in Richmond in June, while holding up a reopening guide for the upcoming school year.

State education officials on Thursday decided to ease several testing and graduation requirements to reduce stress and limit the need for in-person assessments during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Under emergency guidance approved by the Virginia Board of Education, Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane and Secretary of Education Atif Qarni, elementary and middle school students won’t have to take history or writing Standards of Learning tests, which are mandated by the state.

The U.S. Education Department has been reluctant to waive math and reading tests, meaning students still are on track for some standardized tests.

The tests – normally administered in the spring but canceled last school year as classrooms were shuttered – are often used to determine a school’s need for state intervention and its state accreditation rating, which are also effectively on pause.

Although most Virginia school systems are operating in some modified model due to COVID-19, the Standards of Learning assessments have to be administered in person. In September, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos sent a letter to state schools chiefs saying they should not expect any further waivers for the federally mandated tests. 

Virginia is not alone in providing or seeking modifications as schools across the country grapple with the logistical and emotional toll of teaching students through screens or in person but at a distance, with personal protective equipment.

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