RESULTS: Failed Third Grade SOLs

Third grade is a pivotal year for children in school. By the end of third grade, children are expected to read independently, and importantly, to read to learn. This is a significant change from expectations in grades kindergarten through the beginning of grade 3, when children are learning to read. Children who leave third grade reading below grade level are less likely to graduate from high school, and if they do graduate from high school, are less likely to enroll in college.57

On an annual basis, Virginia has access to third grade students’ reading outcomes based on the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) assessments. At least through 2013 when Virginia changed state learning standards, these important indicators of student achievement establish lower levels of proficiency than the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). For example, research suggests that 5th grade proficiency on Virginia’s SOL reading assessment administered through 2012 were considered equivalent to a score below NAEP’s basic score, and Virginia’s eighth-grade SOL level of proficiency through the 2012 assessment was considered to be equivalent to the NAEP basic score.58 Thus, students who fail to meet Virginia’s minimum proficiency measures should be considered the most struggling readers; some children who pass the state test are likely to be reading below grade level according to other standards, such as NAEP.

Beginning in 2012/13, Virginia began assessing third grade reading with tests that measured higher standards. How these proficiency standards compare with other standards, such as NAEP, is not yet clear.

Number and Percentage of Virginia Students Failing the Third Grade SOL Reading Assessment, Virginia, 2005-2015

SOURCE: Virginia Department of Education.

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