SOL Reform Panel Looks At New Model

Mountain View Principal On State Committee Eyeing Test

Posted: July 19, 2014

HARRISONBURG — A local principal serving on a state committee charged with revising the Standards of Learning is hopeful that the tests will soon be revised in real, positive ways.

Karen Thomsen, principal of Mountain View Elementary School, said the SOL Innovation Committee held its first meeting on Tuesday in Richmond and its members seemed interested in and open to seriously changing state assessments.

The SOLs are standardized tests that measure whether students are adequately meeting state benchmarks of achievement. They’re frequently criticized by educators around Virginia for failing to accurately measure student progress and forcing teachers to spend more time teaching to tests than focusing on real-world skills and academic rigor.

Thomsen was assigned to the elementary school subcommittee, which is expected to meet at least once before the next full-committee meeting Sept. 30. A schedule for subcommittee meetings has yet to be determined.

“I’m very excited about the work that we’re going to be able to do, and I feel very thankful that I’m on the committee, that I can be a voice for this area,” Thomsen said. “And definitely, we were all charged to be a voice for the students in Virginia schools.”

It doesn’t make sense that under the current system, she says, students just arriving here from other countries, with limited English proficiency, are quickly expected to meet the same standards as their classmates who were born and raised here.

In general, educators often say they wish the SOLs would measure how students are progressing rather than making passing and failing standardized tests such a black-and-white issue. Much of the discussion at Tuesday’s meeting came back to ideas involving a growth model of student assessment, Thomsen said.

Some of those ideas included requiring students to maintain portfolios of their classwork or do yearlong projects that could incorporate various subject areas, which would be graded using teacher-created rubrics.

The SOL committee includes educators, lawmakers and others in various fields with an interest in education. Thomsen said she is optimistic that the committee will work hard to be open-minded and make strong recommendations for serious change.

Committee members were asked to make a two-year commitment to the endeavor, and are expected to provide short-term recommendations to the General Assembly in January.

Contract Kassondra Cloos at 574-6290 or

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