Standards of Learning: Third Grade Reading
Virginia students take the Standards of Learning (SOL) assessments for the first time in the third grade. The tests are taken by all students and the scores are reported for all school divisions. They provide the first universal assessment for Virginia children.
Why is This Important?
In the first few years of school, students must learn the core skills that will allow them to reach higher levels of learning in subsequent years. Emphasis in third grade English is on learning about words, reading age-appropriate text with fluency and expression, learning comprehension strategies, and writing stories and reports.
From fourth grade on, reading skills are critical to learning other subjects. Achievement scores at the end of the third grade are therefore good predictors of later school success.
How is Virginia Doing?
The English/Reading tests were revised in the 2012-13 school year to reflect the more rigorous standards being implemented system-wide to increase college and career readiness; passing rates were also adjusted. As a result of these changes, test scores dropped as predicted at first, although more recent results indicate that students are working their way back to better scores.
Overall pass rates for the 2015-16 school year were at 75.6 percent, a slight improvement from the 75.4 percent average pass rate the previous year. Regionally speaking, the Southwest and Northern regions saw the highest pass rates in 2015-16, at 80.3 percent each; the Eastern and Valley regions had the lowest pass rates at 71.2 and 71.4 percent, respectively. The Southside region showed the strongest improvement, with a gain of 5.0 percentage points over its pass rate the previous year.
Advanced SOL Performance
The state's average advanced pass rate -- meaning students who got 35 of 40 items correct -- dropped to just 14.4 percent for the 2015-16 school year, down from 21.0 percent for year before. Advanced pass rates were again highest in the Northern region at 20.5 percent, followed by the Southwest region at 18.9 percent. The Valley region had the lowest advanced pass rate at 12.9 percent.
What Influences the SOL Third Grade Reading Assessment Scores?
Third grade SOL assessments are one measure of a child’s academic progress at that point in time. Quality instruction and remediation of any problems detected in earlier years will improve a child’s performance on the assessment. Overall school readiness for kindergarten and the quality of the child’s experiences in kindergarten through grade three will also affect testing results.
The 3rd grade reading assessment is designed to dovetail with the Standards of Learning for English. These English SOLs were adjusted in 2012-13 to:
- better prepare students for college and future careers
- better reflect more demanding national and international benchmarks
- sustain Virginia's parity with the Common Core standards adopted by 45 other states
What is the State's Role?
The state's job is to supply high-quality early childhood education, identifying students at risk for reading problems and providing appropriate interventions. For example, Virginia’s various early intervention programs (see School Readiness) work to identify and assist students who may be at risk for later learning problems.
State rankings are ordered so that #1 is understood to be the best.
Data Definitions and Sources
Virginia Department of Education
(updated annually in October)
A number of factors limit the comparability of scores across years:
- The SOL assessment did not change substantially between 1992 and 2005, and consisted of both reading and writing tests. Beginning in 2005-06, the writing component was dropped and new standards were created.
- The scores through 2005-06 include students who were permitted to retake the exam while in 4th grade under the program's recovery and remediation program.
- Beginning in 2006-07, many disabled students were no longer allowed read-aloud assistance on assessments. (Eligibility for this service dropped from 8,500 to 2,500.)
- In 2006-2007, test administration conditions changed for students who were English language learners.
- In 2013, the English/Reading tests were revised to reflect the more rigorous standards being implemented system-wide to increase college and career readiness. In addition, pass/fail cut-off scores were adjusted: Earlier tests allowed 23 of 35 items correct (pass) and 31 of 35 items correct (advanced pass). The revised cut-off scores now in effect are 25 of 40 items correct (pass) and 35 of 40 items correct (advanced pass).
Longitudinal data on 59,718 students who took both the 3rd Grade and 5th Grade SOL reading tests show that success on the first test is a strong predictor of success on the latter test. Ninety-five percent of the students who passed the Grade 3 test subsequently passed the Grade 5 reading assessment. Remediation enables a substantial percentage of students who fail the 3rd Grade reading SOL test to enjoy success by grade five, but 44 percent of the students who failed in grade three also failed in grade five.
See the Data Sources and Updates Calendar for a detailed list of the data resources used for indicator measures on Virginia Performs.