The Virginia Board of Education has made a commitment to the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) program, and opposed the adoption of the Common Core State Standards as a requirement for participation in entitlement, and competitive grant programs on the national level. As opposed to the Common Core State Standards, the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) program includes a commitment to informing the public of the progress of schools in raising student achievement and enhancing the learning environment. Online report cards for schools, school divisions and the commonwealth include data on student achievement by grade, subject and student subgroup and information on other indicators of school quality. Virginia’s accountability system supports teaching and learning by setting rigorous academic standards and through annual assessments of student achievement. These assessments include SOL tests and other measures of student achievement, including alternative assessments taken by certain students with disabilities and children with limited English proficiency (Virginia Department of Education, 2012).
In light of the objectives identified by the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) program, there arises a need to examine Virginias’ teachers’ perceptions on the effectiveness of the Virginia SOL program in promoting accountability in Virginia schools. The National Research Council (2011) examined incentive programs that recommend rewards or enforce sanctions for teachers, schools, or students on the basis of student performance on assessments. The state and federal governments deeply depend on the incentives as a way to improve student achievement on high-stakes assessments, and increase accountability. All teachers and schools are accountable for expectations, higher standards, and for increasing rigor and relevance in classroom learning and instruction, an objective that the Virginia Board of Education Virginia aimed at meeting by formulating and executing the SOL program in the state. Parents and students are responsible as well for practicing, reviewing, studying, and reinforcing the instruction in class, this being another objective of the SOL program. A high-quality accountability system employs a variety of measures and methods to verify student progress instead of depending on high-stakes outcomes.
Both qualitative and quantitative methods will be utilized to examine high-stakes assessments and accountability. The outcome of the study will provide school administrators, policymakers, parents, and teachers an understanding into what establishes accountability. The study is to inform and enlarge dialog of the public on the controversy of high-stakes assessments on accountability, and the teachers’ perspectives discussed in concurrence to the multiple views on the standards.
The study will expand the realm of knowledge that surrounds high-stakes testing and accountability. Oftentimes, the school systems have made significant decisions on student assessment outcomes although no assessment has been suitable for all purposes. Assessments may vary in their intended function and in their ability to offer a relevant learning experience for students. Testing may be used on a large scale to evaluate and improve the performance of students, but it is vital that assessments are sound, scored accurately, and used correctly (O’Connor, 2002). The Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) program has the overall objective of improving the learning experience of students as well as ensuring that student’s assessments are conducted in a fair manner with the overall outcome of producing students who are well rounded in all subject matters. In view of this overall objective, the programs have employed a myriad of strategies to achieve them; this includes having a commitment to enhancing the school’s learning environment and a commitment to informing the public commitment to informing the public of the progress of schools in raising student. The program, by setting rigorous academic standards and through annual assessments of students, supports teaching and learning. These assessments include SOL tests as well as other measures of student achievements such as alternative assessments taken by students with special needs such as students with disabilities or students with limited English proficiency. The study aims at examining the perceptions of teachers in Virginia on the effective of the Virginia SOL program in promoting accountability in Virginia schools. This can be achieved by establishing the views of teachers on the effect of the Standards of Learning (SOL) program on student learning, school quality, autonomy and teacher stress, and strategies of instruction; and by examining the differences in teachers’ perceptions of the SOL program based on whether teachers work in an income-based school locality, teach in a high, middle, or elementary school, or teach a SOL-assessed course?
Assessments in the Virginia School System have been around since the early nineteenth century. In previous years, teachers were provided with standards and mandated by law to utilize them as a roadmap for instruction in the classroom. The National Association of State Boards of Education (2010) suggested that students are expected to gain an understanding from the textbooks adopted by the state, and pass minimum standards with proficiency on standardized or state achievement assessments. The skills and knowledge are embedded in a core curriculum created by system specialists and teachers. The Virginia Boards of Education, educators, school districts, and schools are responsible for the performance of students. Deschenes, Tyack, and Cuban (2001) implied that schools evaluated students in the nineteenth century to see if they had mastered the content in the core courses, and if not, they were retained.
In the twentieth century, assessments started to change. Teachers assessed students on a regular basis in order to determine if students should pass to the next grade in school. In the twentieth century, students were socially promoted to the next grade with unsatisfactory academic performance, which were contradictory to the nineteenth-century practices. In the twenty-first century, students are expected to master the content in core courses with higher level thinking skills (National Association of State Boards of Education, 2014). In addition, the National Association of State Boards of Education (2014) suggests that assessment experts believe that the educational system cannot be changed under the current accountability and state assessment constraints.
This study is grounded in evidence and research based on the effects of high-stakes testing on student achievement determining accountability in the Virginia School System. The outcome of the study will provide policymakers and teachers an in-depth insight into accountability that will permit policymakers to examine the efficiency of high-stakes assessments as a key element in assessing or evaluating instruction. The participation of the stakeholders involved directly in the study will enhance validity.
The general objective of the study is to establish Teachers’ perception on the effectiveness of the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) program accountability system on Virginia Schools. The following are the specific objectives:
Study Research Questions
There are two research questions to focus on and answer in the following study, such as
The main hypothesis relates to the view of Teachers on Accountability in Virginia Schools. That is, Virginia teachers perception of the effectiveness of the Standards of Learning (SOL) program, accountability system on student learning, school quality, teacher autonomy and teacher stress, and strategies of instruction? The second aspect relates to differences in teacher perceptions based on type of school or courses they teach. The null hypotheses are:
Methodology: Possible Types and Sources of Information
The study will employ the use of questionnaires and scholarly literature related to the topic of study. The sources of scholarly literature used in the study will be explored using the social science electronic databases to cross-reference and cross-check peer-reviewed articles, books, and additional articles. The databases are Education Abstracts, Eric, and PsychInfo. Keywords to be cross-referenced are “school reform and high-stakes assessments”, “high-stakes assessments”, “accountability”, and “teacher’s views on testing”. Several websites relevant to the study will be examined for information. The information will be divided into three sections, such as modern reform in historical context, the Standards of Learning Program in Virginia, and the views of teachers on accountability.
With regards to the use of a researcher questionnaire to collect data for the study, the target population for this study will consist of the teaching staff teaching in Virginia Schools. Literature on sample size observes that there are certain non-definite practices among social research workers that a study can adopt. One such practice suggests that if the population is a few hundreds, a 40 percent or more sample will do, if many hundreds, a 20 percent will do, if a few thousands a 10 percent sample will do, and if several thousands a 5 percent or less sample will do. Schools will be selected across categories and school types. Therefore, stratified and random sampling procedure will be used to select the study schools and subsequently participants of the study.
Possible Statistical Analysis Techniques
The aim of the study is to accumulate descriptive data based on the viewpoints of teachers connected to an array of topics related to the Standards of Learning program. Qualitative and quantitative data analyses will be used in the study. Questionnaires will be used to provide an understanding of attitudes and perceptions of teachers on high-stakes assessments, accountability, and preparation of high-stakes assessments. Descriptive statistics will be generated using SPSS software. Associations between expressed attitudes and demographic variables will be assessed using correlation (both parametric and non-parametric, as appropriate). NVIVO software will be employed to perform content analysis of open-ended response items.
Deschenes, S., Tyack, D., & Cuban, L. (2001). Mismatch: Historical perspectives on schools
and students who do not fit them. Teachers College Record, 103(4), 525-547. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE). (2010). Next generation
learning: Transforming the role of educators today for students of tomorrow. Retrieved from http://www.nasbe.org/wp-content/uploads/SG_Next_Generation_Educators _2010_Exec_Summary1.pdf
NASBE. (2009). Reform at a crossroads: A call for balanced system of assessments and
accountability. Retrieved from http://www.nasbe.org/wp content/uploads/SG_ Assessment_ Report_2009.pdf
O’Connor, K. (2002). How to grade for learning. Arlington Heights, IL: Skylight.
The National Council. (2011). Current test-based incentive programs have not consistently
raised student achievement in U. S.: Improved approaches should be developed and evaluated. The National Academies. Retrieved from http://www8.nationalacademies.org /onpinewssitem.aspx?RecordID=12521
Virginia Department of Education. (2012). Standards of learning (SOL) and testing. Retrieved
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