SOL Grading System Biased Towards Mediocrity

Virginia SOL Scoring System Biased Towards Mediocrity 

April 1, 2016

By ResistanceMedia staff

The Virginia SOL tests are an obsession for the majority of students who are in Virginia public schools. Teachers desperately review in the weeks before the SOL in fear that their students will fail and that their failure will reflect poorly on the teacher. But, in fact, the SOL testing system is biased heavily towards mediocrity, and there is some reason to believe that the computerized grading system is "tweaking" the scores to meet specific school goals (and if the individuals responsible for grading the SOLs are really innocent, there is no way to know.)

Virginia SOLs are graded on a scale of 0 to 600, with 400 representing the minimum score to pass. A score of 500 represents advanced proficiency, and of course, 600 is perfect. On most SOLs, there are between 40 and 55 questions, not 600, so the official score can never really line up with the actual percentages that were received. Therefore, the SOL results must be run through various computerized algorithms in order to receive the score.

The computerized algorithms may, in fact, be "biased" or "unfair", but even if we assume that there is no foul play involved, the overall scoring system is still concerning. 

The way that the SOLs are scored make it relatively hard to receive a high score -- and more concerning to people who want to know the true performance of the Virginia educational system -- make it extremely hard to fail. Therefore, as the educational system continues to be dumbed down, the SOL scores appear to show improvement.  

For example, according to the official "cut scores" released by the Virginia Department of Education, a student who answers 44 out of 50 questions correctly in the 8th Grade Science SOL is considered to "Pass/Advance" and receives an official score of 500. On contrast, a student who only correctly answers 27 out of 50 questions is still considered to "Pass" and receives a score of 400. The fact that there is only a difference of 6 correct answers between 500 and 600, but there is a difference of 17 correct answers between 400 and 500, shows how the official SOL score does not relate to the actual number of questions correctly answered. The way that the computer systems weigh the test also makes the test biased towards mediocrity. 

In a socialist society, the central government controls the majority of the economy. It is not an entirely communist society, but the majority of people are forced by the government to remain mediocre. The same thing is going on in the SOL. It is difficult to receive a high score because of the grading algorithm, although it is much, much harder to actually fail the test. 

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