(June 20, 2014) – It was much louder than your average bill signing.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe asked 650 students at Newton-Lee Elementary if he should sign a bill reducing the number of Standard of Learning (SOL) tests.
The answer was a resounding “Yes!”
With that overwhelming (if unofficial) public referendum, McAuliffe signed HB930 at a table set up in the middle of the Newton-Lee’s multi-purpose room on Wednesday, June 11th. This legislation, which takes effect July 1, caps the number of SOL tests in grades three through eight at 17.
The bill’s patron in the House of Delegates is Del. Thomas A. “Tag” Greason, a Newton-Lee parent. Greason told the students and assembled dignitaries that politics in Richmond is not always as partisan as it appears.
“In my five years in the General Assembly, the majority of things we vote upon are not about politics; they’re not about partisanship. They’re about good ideas that help the commonwealth, and the SOL bill is certainly one…
“The bill itself does three things: it reduces, it improves and it evolves our SOL program. It reduces the number of tests by 23 percent and that’s a huge number when you’re talking about third through eighth grade… That’s more time for our teachers, more time for our students and more time for our parents to engage in learning and go deeper in subjects… Improving: this bill takes a great step in focusing on critical thinking and problem-solving… and less on multiple choice and memorization… And then evolve; we like to think we know everything, sometimes, some of us think we do, but we don’t. We recognized that, so we set up a commission, called the SOL Reform Innovation Commission, which is made up of stakeholders from around the commonwealth, who will come together under the leadership of the secretary of education and will talk about the next steps of our evolution in the assessment program.”
Greason added this bill was “a great first step, but not a last step.”
McAuliffe said the overabundance of SOL testing was a constant concern he heard on the campaign trail last year.
“There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t have a parent or a teacher come up to me and say ‘If you get elected, you’ve got to (reduce) the number of SOL’s.’ …There was a lot of stress going on. Our students were taking so many tests and they were taking pre-tests to get ready for the tests. At the end of the day, our students were learning to be champions at how to take multiple-choice, bubble tests…
“I can’t tell you how many teachers I ran into who said ‘I quit teaching, because I was no longer teaching. I was getting students ready to memorize and take a test.’ ”
McAuliffe, who is Virginia’s 72nd governor, began his day at Newton-Lee with a greeting from a group of third-graders, including Greason’s daughter, Grace. Before the bill-signing, Linda Haberlin’s fourth grade class presented a skit on how the bill made its way through the General Assembly.
After the bill-signing ceremony, McAuliffe presented certificates of appreciation to Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III, LCPS Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Sharon D. Ackerman and Newton-Lee Principal Carol Winters, all of whom are retiring June 30th.
A host of dignitaries attended the event, including AndrewKo, a member of the Virginia Board of Education; Virginia Education Secretary Anne Holton; Superintendent of Public Instruction for the Commonwealth of Virginia Dr. Steven R. Staples; and Del. Robert K. Krupicka Jr., Supervisor Ralph Buona (Ashburn District) and School Board Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn District), Vice Chairman Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge District), Tom Reed (At-Large) and Brenda Sheridan (Sterling District) watched as the bill was signed into law.