classroom in school

May 3, 2017

SOL Hell and the Stress in Education

It’s that time of year.  Most parents get a little irate when they hear their child say a not-so-nice 4-letter word.  But there are 3-letters that’s getting a lot of adults in a tizzy right now!  S – O – L

And while some might might equate SOL with being “out of luck” in the public education system, it stands for Standards of Learning.  Thought, right now, I feel like the SOL system causes everyone to be Out of Luck.  At this point in the school year we are out of luck with rationale.  We are out of luck with patient teachers because the principals are on them to make sure their kids are prepared to pass.  We are out of luck with principals who don’t want to “chance” the opportunity for kids to have a little fun with some games because it will take them “too long” to settle back down to focus on learning.

We are out of luck with our kids getting proper sleep because of kids in sports with late night WEEKNIGHT games.  And our poor teachers are out of luck because they will then be dealing with tired and grumpy kids along with a grumpy principal, so in turn it just makes EVERYONE GRUMPY….. hence my rant in this post!

Are standards of learning actually worth it?  As I understand it, public education comes at a price, a price to tax payers.  We pay our taxes and then it gets distributed back to our school systems with strings attached.  A school will get more money the more “poor” it is.  As parents we are told “fill out this form, the more people apply, the more money we will get regardless if your child qualifies for free lunch.”  Schools fear losing their funding, after all, good funding brings good teachers, good teachers help create happy and successful students.  But then you bring in the dreaded SOL.

Just so you know… here is the the purpose of the SOL straight from the Department of Education:

What is the purpose of SOL testing?

SOL results inform parents and communities about whether students — as individuals and collectively — are meeting the commonwealth’s expectations for achievement in English, mathematics, science and history. SOL tests allow the state Board of Education to identify schools that need assistance and support. The assessments also provide an objective means for measuring achievement gaps between student subgroups and for determining the progress of schools, divisions and the state toward closing these gaps.

So what does that mean?  How do you interpret it?  I interpret it as the government looking for schools that need to be given more money by evaluating the “classes” (subgroup is their fancy word for judging – yes judging – by race, orientation, gender and all those other politically correct terms).

In education, student subgroup generally refers to any group of students who share similar characteristics, such as gender identification, racial or ethnic identification, socioeconomic status, physical or learning disabilities, language abilities, or school-assigned classifications (e.g., special-education students).
Jul 27, 2015 – from:

So… as I work my way back through that “purpose” statement, this test is supposed to highlight the differences in the subgroups?  So in all of our effort for all to be “equal”, yet again, we are dividing people by their characteristic differences.  All for hoping to get more money to fund our schools?  What happened to measuring the individual student to see how he/she is progressing?  I feel like our own children have been forgotten in the midst of trying to get funding for our schools.

In my own school I feel like we have some fabulous teachers, and that they get stifled at every turn because of the limiting SOL guidelines.


A student must get 66.66% (raw score of 400, the lowest score in order to pass) or higher on their SOL(s) in order to pass the test. A student’s advancement to the next grade is not contingent on passing any SOL tests. Passing with 88% (500) is considered advanced/proficient. A perfect score is 600.

Do colleges look at your SOL scores?  Virginia Community colleges do not.  I’m not sure about other colleges and universities.  But don’t get me started on college education… that’s a rant for another blog post!  And, again, if the score has nothing to do with whether a student advances to the next grade… then what the heck is it for?  By the definition above, it doesn’t even sound like it’s measuring what the child has learned, it seems to be more of a way to measure if a particular “group” needs more funding money and more special rights.

It was noted that “when they were instituted 13 years ago, the tests put Virginia ahead of the curve in holding schools accountable for their students’ mastery of subjects,” so I’m wondering what has happened?  When I was in school, the regular grading scale was much stricter.  In order to attain an “A” you had to make a 95 and above on a test or assignment.  A “B” was 88-94.  A “C” was something up to an 87… honestly I don’t remember because I was the kid always wanting that A or B and that meant working extra hard to score it.  But now, we are on a 10-point grading scale.  Some might say we lowered the standards.  Some might say we leveled the field.  No matter which way you look at it, I don’t feel it’s benefited our students.  For those who may have worked hard to attain that A, they don’t have to work as hard now.  For those who were always a D student, they can now put forth the same effort and get a C.  Either way, we are encouraging kids that they don’t need to work hard to do well.  Hmmm…. don’t we hear a lot of complaining that this is what is wrong with our young adults in our culture…that they don’t know the value of hard work?  Could it be, THAT’S where we went wrong?

Could it be that we’ve conditioned our kids to believe they don’t need to work hard all.year.long.  And then we turn around at the very end of the year and FREAK OUT telling kids they need to study, study, study for these cursed tests?!?!?  The principals fuss at the teachers, the teachers fuss at the kids and drill, drill, drill until it makes EVERYONE crazy… including parents!

I sometimes tend to wonder if the dropping of the grading system was merely to make our kids not work as hard and then blindside them with bootcamp like drills for a month to prep for the SOL.  Then it seems the SOL is graded entirely different than any other test.  With passing scores between 400-600 and only 35-50 questions, the math on that works out that each question is 12-17 points each.  In my own school, talking to other parents, their kids are just as frustrated as mine.  They start out the school year excited about learning something new.  Their first report cards bring home As and Bs.  Then by this time of the year, the grades have dropped to Cs and even Ds.  They.Are.Done.  And frankly, so am I!

It is possible that this was all orchestrated so that the kids do poorly and then the government can push their common core program on us?

And NO FUN is allowed during all of this SOL prep (aside from teachers doing “cute” little videos)… not even a simple educational game… likely not even a physical challenge to get kids up and moving and exercising for just 15 minutes during the day would be “allowed” at this point.  FRUSTRATING.  Yes, when it’s all over and the last test is done and there’s nearly two weeks left in the school year… it’s nothing but a party.  Field days to celebrate, movies, cake, cookies and sugar…. oh the sugar…. and then they send them home for the summer.

And yet we wonder why our younger culture wants to coast through life and party hard.  Our education system has failed our kids and will continue especially when it’s tied to government funding.

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