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Virginia students in grades three through eight this fall will be the first to take new “growth assessments” to determine baselines for measuring individual academic progress in reading and mathematics during the school year.

The new tests are mandated by legislation approved by the 2021 General Assembly. For 2021-22, the legislation calls for the administration of fall growth assessments in reading and math, on top of end-of-year Standards of Learning tests students will take next spring.

“These new assessments are timely in that they will provide teachers and other educators with baseline data showing exactly where students are in reading and mathematics as they return to school after the disruptions to learning caused by the pandemic,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said. “Teachers will use performance data from the fall tests to craft instruction that meets the individual needs of every student.”

The new growth assessments are computer adaptive and shorter than the Standards of Learning tests most elementary- and middle-school students take in the spring.

For this year only, the fall growth assessments are based on content from the previous grade level to assist in the identification of unfinished learning from 2020-21 due to the pandemic. Results from next spring’s grade 3-8 reading and math SOL tests will capture student growth during the year, in addition to providing data for use in calculating school accreditation ratings.

Full implementation of the 2021 legislation will occur during the 2022-23 school year, with reading and math growth assessments in grades 3-8 administered three times during the year: in the fall, mid-year, and spring.

The Virginia Department of Education is developing an online portal to allow parents to access their child’s growth-assessment-score report, along with a customized explanatory video. The parent portal is expected to be available in late fall.

The focus of growth assessments is on identifying what students have already learned, as well as the skills they may need additional help with during this school year, state officials said. As the purpose of the fall growth assessments is to establish a baseline for measuring student growth, the tests will not have a minimum passing score, and VDOE will not report aggregate growth results for schools and divisions.

For the 2021-22 school year, growth will be measured by comparing students’ spring 2022 SOL scores with their spring 2021 SOL scores, or with the scores on the new fall 2021 growth assessments. The comparison that shows greater growth will be used for calculating 2022-23 school-accreditation ratings.

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