SOL stands for Standards of Learning and were implemented in Virginia as part of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. The idea was to standardize education to ensure that all students were receiving high quality education. The standards set the goals and each state is required to administer a test at the end of the year to monitor whether students are meeting these goals. The SOL tests are administered in various grades for math, reading, writing, science, and social science courses. The standards are defined for each subject and each grade on the VA Dept of Education website: http://www.doe.virginia.gov/VDOE/Superintendent/Sols/home.shtml
There is a lot of pressure on schools to have their students pass the SOL’s. This pressure gets placed on the teachers and, in turn, the students. For schools that receive government funding through Title 1, achievement on the SOL’s is tied to the funding that the schools receive. All schools are required to publish the results of their SOL’s and get a “report card” to say how well the school is doing. Teachers are held accountable for their students’ performance. There are high stakes for the SOL’s, which is the reason for the pressure that can sometimes be felt around SOL testing time. Whether the NCLB act accomplished its original goal is still up for debate.
For high school students, SOL’s are required to earn a diploma. The number of SOL tests that students have to pass depends on whether they are working towards a standard diploma or an Advanced Studies Diploma. When you pass a class and the SOL for that course, it is called a verified credit. For a standard diploma, students have to have 6 verified credits out of the 22 total credits needed. Two must be English courses, one math, one lab science, one social science, and the last one is the student’s choice. For an Advanced Studies Diploma, students must have 9 verified credits out of 24 total required credits. There must be two verified credits in English, math, lab science, and social science. The last verified credit can be the student’s choice. For more information, visit the Virginia Department of Education website at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/2plus4in2004/index.shtml