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SOL tests changing for Halifax County students

No more eeny, meeny, miny, moe for Halifax County Public School students taking the Standards of Learning math test. The familiar multiple choice will no longer be the majority of the format given.


The new technology-enhanced test will feature problem solving and critical thinking this year.

Preparing students from the elementary to high school level for the more rigorous math Standard of Learning testing this month, administrators and teachers have been working with students to ready them for the technology-based enhanced questioning that will require students to demonstrate critical thinking and problem solving skills.

“The test is more rigorous this year, but the teachers have been doing a lot of staff development sessions and have been kept up to date on the practice sessions and technology enhanced questions,” said Halifax County Division Testing Coordinator Nancy Zirkle.

Michael Wilkerson, a math teacher at Halifax County Middle School, has been busy preparing his seventh and eighth grade students. Wilkerson teaches Algebra I, II and seventh grade math.

“We have been preparing in several different ways including going over questions that were provided to us by the state. Technology is included this year and the students may be asked to click on a graph where two, three or four  answers may work. We’ve been working on review material, and the main thing is practicing,” said Wilkerson.

Believing the new format is “fine,” Wilkerson however wishes the students were able to have a few more years of practice. 

“I believe the new test will help in the long run, but the key is the hard questions,” said Wilkerson.

The students generally are nervous when test time rolls around, but this year is a little different. 

According to Wilkerson they know that some of the test is not multiple choice and that they won’t have the option of plugging in answers until they find the right one.

“I have been emphasizing that all along and haven’t been giving a lot of multiple choice practice,” Wilkerson added.

The students who care, however, aren’t nervous about the technology portion of the exam but just the fact questions are going to be harder is what is working on the nerves of these test takers, he believes.

“We are going to do the best we can, and we’ll find out, but I hear it’s going to be pretty tough this time,” said Wilkerson.

Superintendent Paul Stapleton is optimistic despite being a little apprehensive about the new style of the math test.

“I’m hopeful we’ll have good results. The teachers and principals have all worked real hard in preparation for the tests, and we’ll have to wait and see. This test is much more difficult, but I’m very optimistic, and I hope the students do well,” said Stapleton.

According to the Virginia Department of Education the new technology-enhanced questions and problem solving will make up nearly 10 to 15 percent of the test. However, in grades 3 through 5 the technology-enhanced questions are only field-tested questions and will not impact the students’ scores.

Testing began this week and will continue through the month ending May 25 with each school having a different schedule. Students in grades 3 through high school taking math, Algebra I, II and geometry will participate in the SOL test.

“It depends on the school. The high school usually takes all of theirs toward the end of the month, and the middle and elementary schools spread theirs out through the month,” said Zirkle.

Regardless of when the nervous test takers will be meeting the new test format, their teachers are doing their share to make sure the students are well prepared.

“We have a schedule set up, and we will keep practicing and reviewing right up until test day,” Wilkerson said.