This time it’s personal

Published 10:08 am Saturday, September 13, 2014

COURTLAND-When Virginia sixth-graders take their SOL exams in math this school year, they’ll get a new format that will test their knowledge individually. Dr. Rodney Brown, director of instruction for Southampton County Public Schools, told the board during its Monday meeting that Computer Adaptive Testing is scheduled.

In a video guide to CAT on its website,, the Virginia Department of Education states, “…Computer Adaptive Testing provides a more personalized test experience for students.”

So instead of Southampton Middle School sixth-graders all getting the same math questions, they’ll receive individual ones generated by a computer program. The problems aren’t intended to be either too difficult or too easy.

Also according to VDOE, “Questions that challenge without overwhelming them [the students] may result in increased student focus and engagement with the test and provide great understanding of a student’s achievement.”

When a student answers correctly the next question is to be a little more challenging. But an incorrect solution will guide the student to a somewhat less difficult problem, or what Brown called “a more engaging type of question to find a level the student can perform at.”

The scoring will be done based on the number of problems answered correctly and their level of difficulty.

He added that CAT would be expanded to other grades as resources become available.

In related news, Brown announced that VDOE is discontinuing the following SOL tests: science, history and social science in Grade 3; science and writing in Grade 5; U.S History I in Grade 6; and U.S. History II in grade 7. This follows legislation approved earlier this year by the House and Senate of the Virginia General Assembly.

Brown also told the board that pass rates for benchmark tests in the SOL exam will remain unchanged for the 2014-2015 school year. He said English will stay at 75 percent, and math, science, history and social sciences will remain at 70 percent.

This announcement comes in the wake of recently announced preliminary SOL test results, in which four of the county public schools were fully accredited for another year.

Capron Elementary and Riverside Elementary were accredited with warning in English.

In her update on the first week of school, Superintendent Dr. Alvera Parrish noted that during a tour of schools, she saw that instruction was already in progress on the first day.

“We had a very successful first week. I’m very pleased with the principals and staff’s focus,” she said. “We’re just real excited. I think that everybody’s ready.”