At the end of every school year, students all over Virginia from grades 3 to 12, begin reviewing for standardized tests.
These tests are necessary because they are a reflection of Virginia public schools as a whole and how well teachers prepare students throughout the course of the school year. Although the SOL (Standards Of Learning)testing is stressful to teachers and especially students, it is the best way to show that students are being taught the same curriculum throughout the state.
Standardized tests also can track the progress of students over the years, and allows it to be known what subjects students are stronger in. Standardized testing also allows test scores to be compared between students within the same school as well as across schools.
The SOL test measures the minimum of what students should know at the end of the course. SOLs test knowledge in Mathematics, Science, History/Social Studies, and English.
Because there are so many students enrolled in Virginia public schools, the test is at a rather general and standard level.
“It is comforting to know that the tests are at a standard level and that everyone goes through the same type of preparation for the SOLs,” sophomore Mariam Mohamed said.
In order to pass each SOL, students need to score at least a 400 out of a total of 600.
In some cases, certain teachers here at Annandale offer extra credit points that go towards the final exam at the end of the course depending on how well you score on the SOL. This motivates students to better prepare themselves for the standardized test.
SOL review also gives students preparation for the final exam, which is a major grade that can make or break students end of the year grades. All in all, standardized testing is necessary nationwide and within AHS because it can give a basic understanding that all students in grades 3 through 12 understand the general and standard information about the course.
The curriculum being taught to students in not only Virginia but all over the country, is the same and that students have a general understanding of what they are learning.
If the amount of students passing a certain SOL test are low, the school can then establish a more guided teaching system of the course, confirming that students will better understand what they are learning and passing rates will increase in years to come.
With the arrival of spring comes testing season as AHS students prepare to take the SOLs. These standardized tests have been Virginia’s way of planning the curriculum for the past several years.
Many students, like senior Akrem Ahmed, are against this common form of testing.
“I think SOLs aren’t necessary because they don’t test students on their true capabilities in the subject,” Ahmed said. “The test is a multiple choice exam that is used to rate the schools in the country, therefore it doesn’t motivate the students to do well because it is not needed to pass.”
Likewise, junior Karla Mejia believes that it only adds unnecessary stress on students who are preparing for other major exams like IB tests or final exams. “I don’t think SOLs are really necessary because they just add on top of the stuff that is actually being graded, like final exams,” Mejia said.
In the eyes of these students, the test discourages students by making them question their intelligence based on the outcome.
“They’re not really necessary because if you’re passing the class every quarter, then you’re learning everything you need to learn,” senior Katherine Santos said.
Those who are extremely opposed to the SOLs, like sophomore Cece Joseph, see no other alternative to the annual exam.
“They’re insanely unnecessary honestly,” Joseph said. “I think no SOLs would be a good alternative.”
A common reason for opposing the exam is a more defensive approach, supporting those who strive year round but fall short at the ends of the standardized test.
“A student could be doing well all year but they could fail the test,” Ahmed said. “This should not be a true reflection of their workmanship.”
As years go by, test-makers are looking for new and improved ways to test students’ knowledge and improve the classroom curriculum.
“I think a good alternative would be a test that is more innovative and allows students to really incorporate their thoughts and knowledge,” Ahmed said.“”For example, in language, there is the PALs that is made up of many components that really pushes the students to do well.”
Some students even feel that getting rid of the standardized test as a whole would be beneficial to their peers.
“SOLs are just ‘minimum requirement,’ so they don’t help advanced kids and they’re just another irrelevant obstacle that exists to add stress on the students,” Joseph said.
Upperclassmen who take IB classes tend to lean more towards the open-ended IB tests over the SOLs.
“I think IB tests allow people to show their strengths because they’re open ended unlike the SOLs,” Mejia said.