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Virginia Schools Were Left To Police Themselves. Now, The State Plans Better Oversight Of SOL Course Enrollment

For about two decades, Virginia Department of Education officials warned against using class scheduling to manipulate standardized testing, but school divisions were left to police themselves. Now, the state plans to get more involved.

Next week, the state school board will review a measure that would require superintendents to sign off on a policy that prevents changing schedules to avoid having weak students take Standards of Learning exams. SOL pass rates determine accreditation, which affects schools’ reputations and educators’ jobs. The state will release new ratings Wednesday.

The board vote comes two decades after the state implemented its testing system and after yearlong discussions about ways to revise education standards.

Norfolk is the only division in South Hampton Roads without a formal policy. On Saturday, a Virginian-Pilot analysis found that high school administrators there routinely move students with low grades out of state-tested classes during or between semesters, before the test is given. First-semester enrollment in SOL courses dropped by as much as 57 percent by the beginning of the second semester in 2014-15, according to data Norfolk provided in response to The Pilot’s records request.