The Bow Tie Boys

The Bow Tie Boys

Thursday, May 11, 2017


Most people are familiar with the saying, April showers bring May flowers. But for kids in Virginia, May means not only flowers, but also SOLs, the end of the year test required for many classes. Students spend May studying and practicing these SOLs, which are end of the year tests that are not required to go into the grade book but does determine whether or not the student gets credit for the course. As a student, I definitely stress out too much about SOLs. Even in classes I do very well in, I still get that gut feeling that I don't know something, and this causes too much stress, which in this case, isn't good. I also have seen in a majority of my classes, nothing is done after the SOLs, and we just watch movies, play games, etc. SOLs mark the end of the year in many classes, and the breakdown of the nurturing learning environment.

In SOLs, there is a year load of material jammed into one, 60ish question test. That is one whole year of curriculum students have to know and master. Oh, and students usually have 4 of these, usually concurrently happening. That is immense pressure on the student to study everything with such tenacity, that students become deprived of sleep, on a night where they probably need it the most. Students will also ignore other classes, just so they can have more time studying for these big tests. This is all because the test is so important to their academic future. Now, students should still study and prepare for their SOLs, but many do it to a extreme level that is unnecessary. Even worse, some teachers count the SOL as a grade, further increasing the importance of this test. Now, I personally think SOLs and tests like it should have a lowered importance, but they should still be important.

After SOLs, there is little learning that takes in many classes. For me, this is a combination of two reasons.  One, the SOL is seen as the final step in the year, with nothing proceeding it. Two, as stated earlier, SOLs drain students of their mental capacity and effort, resulting in many students not having the will to move on. Now, there should still be learning that occurs after SOLs, but with the toll they take on students, the learning should be at a slightly lower level than usual, and could maybe be a sort of introduction into the next course i.e. at the end of algebra, do a quick and simple geometry introduction.

As a teacher, one can take some of the stress of an SOL (or any other final) by spending the week leading up to the test reviewing so students aren't learning things last second. If new learning is done up to the SOL, that is tremendous stress as the student has to essentially master the new learning during the SOL instead of in a lower stakes classroom assessment. Luckily for me, in all of my classes with SOLs, we did in class review for about a week before the test. It was very reassuring and I was less stressed about the test than before. When there is less before and leading up to the SOL or final exam, students will be more willing to continue learning after the exam is complete.  By doing in class review, learning after the SOL becomes easier, and can help students get an early understanding of future courses and prepare them for the following school year.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post Joe. There are so many changes we need to make in testing at every grade level so I really appreciate hearing your thoughts. I especially worry about what happens AFTER the tests and how we cheat students when we simply give up on the year and play video. Every second counts so thank you for adding your thoughts on this!