Virginia Department of Education gets federal approval to cancel some SOL tests

Published: Mar. 30, 2020 at 3:57 PM EDT
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Virginia's annual Standards of Learning (SOL) tests for reading, math, and science have been canceled for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year as all K-12 students spend the rest of the academic year at home.

The Virginia Department of Education announced on Monday that the U.S. Department of Education officially granted the state the authority to waive federally mandated testing.

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane submitted a waiver application for Virginia on Friday after the federal agency informed the state-level department that the application did not require prior approval from the state Board of Education.

On Saturday, the federal department gave VDOE the green light to put the waiver into effect, pending formal approval later this spring.

According to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, states have to administer annual tests for reading and mathematics in grades 3-8 and at least once in high school, as well as science testing t least once in elementary, middle and high school.

But as of March 20, with extended school closures in states across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced an expedited process for approving statewide waivers of ESSA testing mandates.

"I would like to thank USED for how quickly they are granting these waivers so that we can provide certainty for our educators and students," Lane said.

On an order from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, all Virginia schools are closed through the end of the 2019-2020 academic year as a means to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In addition to federal standards, Virginia also requires tests in writing and social studies and history.

The VDOE is looking at options to cancel those state-required tests when the General Assembly re-convenes in April, since it would require legislative approval.