Fairfax County Public Schools Announces Standards of Learning Data in Line with Pandemic Trends Felt Across the Region

By Communication and Community Relations
August 26, 2021

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has announced 2020-21 Standards of Learning (SOL) pass rates for school divisions showing that the impact of the pandemic on Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) was similar to that felt across the entire state. 

The VDOE is treating this past year’s SOL pass rates as an anomaly, due to lower participation rates brought on by the pandemic, and will not be taking them into consideration for school accreditation this coming school year. 

“We know this past school year was challenging for many students both here in FCPS and across the state. Now, our focus is on ensuring we continue our strong return to school and provide comprehensive supports to fill in the gaps in learning as a result of the pandemic – both in terms of academics and social-emotional needs,” FCPS Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand said. “While our data indicates ongoing learning needs, our students and staff have been incredibly resilient while navigating challenges resulting from the pandemic. It is important to call out this resilience, as well as the other successes, which are perhaps worth even more, given the circumstances in which they were achieved. Our teachers and staff are focused on meeting the needs of every student, now that we have returned to five days of in-person instruction.”

Unlike previous years when the majority of FCPS students were required to take SOL tests, the VDOE allowed parents to refuse SOL testing in the spring of 2021, due to COVID-related concerns. As a result of this pandemic flexibility, FCPS saw more than 50,000 tests refused this year, compared with just over 500 tests refused in 2018-19. As a result, participation rates in reading, mathematics, and science fell by an average of 20%. 

In addition, high school students were allowed to defer SOL testing if the test was needed only for verified credit, and our elementary and middle school students were not offered the opportunity to retake SOLs removing any opportunity for these students to improve their scores as allowed in all previous years.

The decrease in participation was reflected in overall division pass rates, which fell by 8 points, 25 points, and 19 points respectively in reading, math, and science, in line with drops experienced statewide. Students with disabilities saw their pass rates decline in line with other FCPS students. The largest decreases in FCPS pass rates were among Hispanic students, students who are economically disadvantaged, and English learners. 

FCPS has allocated $170 million of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) funding to support students with academics and social-emotional learning, as they return to our school buildings this fall. The use of these funds to support learning loss or unfinished learning is outlined in an Academic Support Plan aimed at ensuring all students receive the academic and social-emotional support they need to succeed. 

The framework of the plan focuses on assessing individual student needs and aligning school and division supports to meet students where they are to accelerate their learning and success. It includes:

  • Ensuring instructional staff receive curriculum guidance that places an importance on time for establishing relationships and positive classroom culture.
  • Using multiple data points, including classroom assessments and the formative fall Virginia Growth Assessments, to identify student learning gaps and inform instruction.
  • Providing targeted, individualized intervention and tutoring services for students with the greatest needs.
  • Prioritizing foundational literacy skills for our youngest learners.
  • Ensuring English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and special education students have access to enhanced supports and services. 
  • Strengthening family engagement with multilingual outreach efforts and tools including Schoology.

Please visit the Virginia Department of Education website for additional SOL information including assessment results.