Don’t Forget the Dismal History SOL Pass Rates

by Carol J. Bova

As the battle rages over the History and Social Science (HSS) Standards of Learning criteria — the State Board of Education decided earlier this month to delay its review of Youngkin administration revisions — it is worth noting how poorly Virginia students mastered the old standards. More than one-third of Virginia students failed the 2021-2022 HSS tests.

Of all the HSS tests administered in every grade, according to Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) data, only three had a pass rate of 70% or higher.

Grade 6 Civics & Economics — 71.5%
Grade 8 Civics & Economics — 70.5%
Grade 8 Geography — 73.4%

The highest pass rate for the twelve History and Social Science SOL tests for 10th, 11th and 12th grades was 50.8% for 10th-grade Geography. The other eleven pass rates ranged from 24.5% to 46.6%.

Considering the 2021-2022 test scores, why would anyone object to a different approach?

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15 responses to “Don’t Forget the Dismal History SOL Pass Rates”

  1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Many schools that struggle with the SOL tests for history are turning to the easy course of Geography. Standard diploma requires 3 credits in US History, Government, World History, or Geography. But you only need 1 verified credit. For the Advanced diploma all 4 courses but only 1 verified credit needed. A verified credit is a passing class grade and a passing SOL test score. This applies only to high school. Middle and elementary SOL tests do not count in a sense. You can fail a middle school SOL test as many times as you want. Failure will not prevent you from advancing.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    I would have been very impressed and turned into a Youngkin supporter had he said ” Math and Reading are a priority given the losses and NAEP scores – Here’s what we need to do”.

    Instead he does this really ignorant history whitewashing crap and he has supporters!

    Shouldn’t we be focusing , prioritizing reading and math ?

    If we can do tip lines, and rail about CRT, and the “honestly gap” – why not address that honesty gap right now and take time for the history to get resolved?

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Only the media and the ankle biters fail to admit and report that there is a major focus on reading and math as more important than history. You just want to attack and belittle him!

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        His current priorities speak for themselves. I still wouldn’t like his emphasis on whitewashing history but if he had actually made reading and math a priority, I would have been forced to grudgingly admit he did the right thing – and would have..

        As it stands right now, I see no plan at all to try to recover what the kids have lost in terms of what is most important.

        TMT is right. You can’t do history without reading and comprehension even if it’s whitewashed!

        I’m becoming convinced that some folks who themselves were taught whitewashed history PREFER it and want it for THEIR kids!

        And they are Youngkins supporters!

        1. Doesn’t explain why HSS pass rates were significantly lower than reading pass rates. See post below.

    2. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Only the media and the ankle biters fail to admit and report that there is a major focus on reading and math as more important than history. You just want to attack and belittle him!

  3. f/k/a_tmtfairfax Avatar

    Mastering social studies involves reading. If you cannot read well, you have no chance of understanding history, geography, government and the like. The inability to master social studies provides evidence of a possible reading issue, as well as other problems.

    Public schools need competition for taxpayer dollars. We need more charter schools. The GA should strip the authority to approve or disapprove charter schools from local school boards and give to the state as is done in North Carolina. There are numerous charter schools here, many of which have been started with groups that include racial and ethnic minorities.

  4. I guess it doesn’t matter what they teach in history class if the kids aren’t learning it…


  5. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Fork Union Military Academy has a promising solution. One subject plan. One subject for seven weeks, one teacher, a small class of 10-17 students. After seven weeks rotate to a new subject. This style of total emersion permits teachers to zero in on weaknesses. Students do not have to juggle time management and figuring out how to balance multiple classes. This easily meets the 140 clock hour requirement from VDOE. FUMA claims that this method demonstrates mastery of material, improved grades, self-discipline, and SAT scores.

    1. Carter Melton Avatar
      Carter Melton

      This system has worked for decades. In the early 60’s, my VMI classmates from Fork Union were among the best prepared for our first year….and did exceptionally well through graduation. I often wondered why more schools/systems didn’t use this method.

      1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead

        The formula still works. FUMA has a 4 year program plus a one year post graduate program that is essentially Last Chance High School. The results of the one subject plan are noteworthy and should be explored by Virginia’s school leaders that are serious about reforms. It requires turning the way we think about high school upside down.

  6. f/k/a_tmtfairfax – Yes, reading skills are necessary for HSS tests. So I checked the state records on English reading SOLs. Some reading pass rates seem to correlate to HSS pass rates, but not in high school.
    Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 had reading pass rates between 70 and 72.
    HSS pass rates were 65 to 75.
    Grade 9 did better in HSS than reading 52. HSS 52, 53, 66, 67

    10-12th grade HSS were significantly iower than reading rates:
    Grade 10 66 in reading. HSS 31, 41, 46, 51.
    11 reading pass rate was 88. HSS 36, 38, 38, 41.
    12th reading 68. HSS 24, 26, 33, 49.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      does also depend on what HSS is testing for.

      but in order to really understand history more than just remembering things, you do need superior reading and comprehension skills.

      That’s basic to virtually any other subject – including math if you’re dealing with word problems.

  7. fightingdragons Avatar

    This data is grossly inaccurate. There is no grade 6 civics test, or grade 8 geography test (Unless some schools are doing advanced history courses in middle school, but in that case its not the full population of the school/division/state, and if that’s the scores they are getting, then maybe they should stop doing advanced history courses and pushing the kids through it too fast)
    It says 12 history tests… there are only 6 VA SOL tests for History Grades 4 and up.
    Pass rates for 10th – 12th graders would also not be the full population and only for students who failed their history test in 9th grade. 10th-12th grade students do not take a History SOL unless their failed their 9th grade one.
    Also 9th graders take either World History OR World Geography, not both, so again, not the full population any time you are looking at History data.

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      But struggling school are switching to Word Geo. Why? Because the minimum bar is so low that even an ESOL student has a chance of getting at least 50% percent right. I am so blue at the gills of the minimum bar. It proves nothing except how we fail every day in public education.

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