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?
Overall pass rates for the 2011-12 school year were at 86.1 percent, an average increase of 2.4 percentage points from rates in 2011.
The Northern and West Central regions experienced the highest pass rates in 2011-12, at 87.3 and 86.6 percent, respectively; the Southside region had the lowest pass rate at 83.2 percent.
Advanced SOL Performance
The state's average advanced pass rate -- meaning students who passed 31 of 35 total items -- has generally been increasing since 2006; however, it decreased in every region during the 2011-12 school year. The 2011-12 advanced pass rate was highest in the Northern region at 41.3 percent, followed by the Southwest region at 40.2 percent. The Eastern region had the lowest advanced pass rate at 31.1 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. 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.
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.
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 2004-05, 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.
Longitudinal data on 59,718 students who took both the grade-three and grade-five SOL reading tests show that success on the grade-three test is a strong predictor of success on the grade-five test. Ninety-five percent of the students who passed the grade-three test subsequently passed the grade-five reading assessment. Remediation enables a substantial percentage of students who fail the grade-three 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.