- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 15, 2002

The Virginia Board of Education yesterday voted to support any legislation that authorizes it to speedily create guidelines to help thousands of high school students at risk for failing the Standards of Learning tests in 2004.
The resolution is aimed at students in the ninth-grade classes of 2000-01, 2001-02 and 2002-03, who were in elementary school when the SOLs were implemented and did not have the benefit of a curriculum aligned with the standards.
Parents and schools fear that thousands of these students may be at risk of not being promoted in 2004, when all high school students must pass six SOL tests to graduate.
In November, the board's Accountability Advisory Committee proposed that high school students who fall 25 points short of the passing grade of 400 be allowed to graduate so long as they meet other criteria.
But any amendments to SOL guidelines could take up to two years, sources said. "It is a very lengthy process. The board would rather do this in an expeditious fashion by supporting legislation," said schools spokesman Charles Pyle.
Board member Susan Genovese, who put forward the resolution, said the board would back any legislation authorizing the board to create such guidelines by August.
She said the resolution "does not preclude" the advisory committee proposal. "We just needed more time," she said, adding that the board may consider the advisory committee proposal in the future.
"The board is concerned about graduation rates down the road and will take everything into consideration," she said.
Board member Mark Christie, however, said he had concerns about the 25-point scale proposed by the advisory committee. "It might be appropriate for a history test, but not a math test," which is more objective, he said.
Both members said the board needed more time to consider guidelines to help at-risk students and said yesterday's resolution would give them that time. "This is not something we want to rush on. We want to do it right," Mr. Christie said.
He said the board needed to weigh several details in coming up with guidelines to help transition students. "At this point, we are simply asking for legislation that will give us the authority to develop factors on a fast track," he said.
He added that a bill put forward in the House by Delegate John S. Reid, Richmond Republican, appeared to be in tune with what the board was seeking. That bill directs the Board of Education to develop guidelines for local school boards to award verified credit for transition students.
Several other measures in the General Assembly are considering modifications to the SOLs, including two bills on multiple criteria put forward by Delegate Karen L. Darner, Arlington Democrat.

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