It’s That Time of Year Again

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That’s right, it’s that time of year again!

Most of the students in grades 3-12 are taking or are preparing to take the Virginia Standards of Learning tests; otherwise known as the SOLs.

SOL tests measure the progress of students from 3rd grade to 8th grade, as well as certain high school classes. Virginia SOL test results provide actionable data that help parents, teachers, and students improve academic performance in reading, math, writing, science, and history/social studies. SOLs are also used in evaluating each school’s Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

SOL assessments are criterion-referenced tests aligned with and based on the challenging Virginia Standards of Learning. These Virginia state standards define what Virginia students should learn in every grade. VA SOL scores measure how well students have mastered grade-specific skills and report achievement in each subject using the following three levels:

  1. Pass/Advanced
  2. Pass/Proficient
  3. Fail

Achieving proficient or advanced levels is considered passing the SOL tests.

The best preparation for SOL testing is to steadily build skills. Children who master math and reading fundamentals, such as phonics, reading comprehension strategies, and facts and formulas, will be prepared for more complex questions and concepts, and will ultimately perform better on tests.

But even a well-prepared student can feel pre-test anxiety. Encourage your child to relax and to view the test as a chance to show what they have learned. Reassure them that it is natural to feel a little nervous and that the important thing is to try their best.

Still anxious about SOL testing?  Here are some tried and true test taking strategies that may help in the testing clinch!

  1. The Day Before:  Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep. Test scores can be greatly affected when a child hasn’t gotten enough rest.
  2. Test Day:  A good breakfast the morning of the test is a terrific brain booster. Nutrients help to stimulate the brain.
  3. Remind your student to pay close attention to directions, and emphasize that they can highlight or underline any words that may assist them in answering questions.
  4. When taking the reading comprehension test, which can be very lengthy, it may help your student to start by previewing the questions prior to reading the assigned passage so they know what they are looking for when they read the text.
  5. In multiple-choice questions, if stumped, remind your student to first rule out answers they know are incorrect. It will then be easier to figure out the correct answer.

In parting, if you want to change your child’s performance on standardized tests, don’t over-focus on short-term test prep, as it only builds pressure which is generally counter-productive. The best on-going strategy is to stay involved in your child’s education, and to keep in mind that standardized tests, while giving insight, are not the final say on how much your child is learning or how well they will do in life or even in future academics. Remember, it takes months and years to build skills and knowledge, and many factors can impact test performance on any given day.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, focus on the fact that summer break is right around the corner!

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