Standardized Tests Are Necessary Evil For Schools

Published 5:58 pm Thursday, June 4, 2015

Summer temperatures were kicking in as May wound down. And it was getting hot in classrooms all across the area. It’s that time of year.

Test time.

SOL time.

Love them or loath them, Standards of Learning (SOL) tests have become the benchmark of a child’s success and a school’s ever-important rating from the state Department of Education. Some children stress over the weight of it, and we’re sure it causes some consternation for parents, too. A bad year at a classroom or grade level also makes for some sleepless nights for teachers and administrators.

Most parents take aim at the concept of the tests that are administered to public school children across Virginia. Some argue that there’s a tendency to teach to the test, eschewing other creative learning opportunities that are outside of the SOL scope.

The SOLs are intended, and they should, to be the minimum for teachers to teach and students to learn. Good teachers want to do more in expanding their students’ horizons, and many — even in the shackles of an SOL value system — still do. Teaching, with its accompanying personal sacrifices, should be considered a calling, and we are thankful for those in the profession and those who share our opinion.

Despite the criticisms, the SOL value system chugs on. Try to find someone who actually embraces it, and you have a challenge. It is, from all appearances, here to stay in some form. The sad reality is that without some sort of a target (even, perhaps, a flawed one), it does, at least, encourage some sort of a goal on an individual, school and systemic level.

It is harsh in its judgment. It does not take into account the individual progress when a child, school or school division falls short. It is has more the feel of a win or lose valuation.

The SOL system is, yes, an imperfect one, but the question remains for critics: how to fix it. Surely, there must be some value system put into place, most can agree, but hows are hard to come by. We are open to listening, but have come to the conclusion that some standard is better than none.