Saturday, March 29, 2003

No diploma without passing the SOLs, will political pressure and litigation result?

According to this report, this year's high school juniors have until the end of their senior year to pass the Virginia Standards of Learning test or fail to earn a diploma. As Professor Leslie Bolt of JMU observes, "The real test will be when the state begins to deny graduation to students," noting that some states have backed off when that happened while others have seen dropout rates rise. He wondered, "Will Virginia voters be willing to accept the fact that at least one out of five high-school seniors will not graduate, or that the dropout rates will increase?" He expects graduation and school accreditation based on passing tests to disappear in a few years under pressure from parents. "The political life of the SOL movement is already on life support," he said.

On the other hand, emeritus professor Dan Fleming of Virginia Tech points to the federal No Child Left Behind law, which mandates testing and other requirements through 2014, when today's first-graders are scheduled to graduate. "Still, a new president or Congress could gut the law. On the state level, passing scores were lowered for Virginia's SOL history tests when so few students passed them, although they were reset to where teachers -- including Fleming at the time -- originally recommended."

Could the SOLs ever be the subject of litigation? Just this past week, I filed an answer in a case where the parents of a young man are claiming his constitutional rights have been violated by the school's decision to suspend him for one day.

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