The Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) outline the goals and objectives of curriculum taught in the state’s public schools at each grade level and in each subject area. How these goals and objectives are met is measured by student performance on the state-mandated SOL tests.
Beginning in 2005, in accordance with No Child Left Behind mandates, students have been tested on knowledge acquired at each grade level in Reading and Mathematics. By law, all students in grades 3 through 12 must participate in certain SOL assessments. Limited English proficient students (LEP) may be granted a one-time exemption in English: Writing, History/Social Science, and Science in grades 3 through 8.
The SOL tests are criterion-referenced achievement tests. That is, they relate each student's performance to a predetermined set of criteria—in this case, mastery of the Virginia Standards of Learning. SOL test results can be used to determine the exact knowledge and skills students possess. The Virginia Board of Education establishes cut scores that define the levels of achievement on the SOL tests: advanced (pass), proficient (pass), and does not meet the standards (fail). Cut scores change each time a new form of an SOL test is developed, and they vary from test to test. SOL scaled scores range from 0 to 600. A score of 400 is required to pass at the proficient level; a score of 500 is required to pass at the advanced level.
Thirty-two SOL tests measure competency in the four core areas: English (Reading and Writing), Mathematics, History/Social Science, and Science. The SOL tests are administered in two formats: paper/pencil and online. Presently 98% of APS students are tested online. Beginning in spring 2013, all tests will be administered in the online format except for students who require Large Print or Braille paper tests or students with disabilities that prevent them from accessing the test in the online format.