APS Assessment Guidelines due to COVID: 2020-21

Note: Check back often for the latest Assessment updates:

SOL Testing Spring 2021:

Standards of Learning (SOL) testing for the 2020-21 school year has not been waived and we are required to administer tests to students in grades 3-12. Arlington has made some adjustments to the testing regimen as allowed by VDOE and SOL tests will be limited to reading and math in grades 3-8, science in grades 5 and 8, and required End of Course (EOC) high school credit bearing classes. All SOL testing will be done in-person at schools in May and June. ​Hybrid students will test on days when they are scheduled to attend school. Full-distance learning (DL) students will be scheduled to test on Mondays. Each school will communicate their individual SOL schedule with dates and times with their families.

We are coordinating transportation for DL students who may need a bus to come to school for SOL testing. ​ Buses may carry up to 21 students per bus. We encourage families to provide their own transportation for their child, whenever possible, on the day they are scheduled to take their SOL test(s).

Click here for more SOL information.

We understand that families may have concerns about their students coming into the building to participate in assessments even though there are many safety protocols in place. Parents who do not wish for their student to participate in state and/or federally mandated assessments due to COVID-19 concerns, should contact their student’s administrative staff or School Testing Coordinator by phone or email to discuss scheduling options or request information on opting out for this school year. There will be no penalty for students who are not assessed, but parents will need to submit the APS Parent Refusal Form for the appropriate assessment which can be obtained from your school’s STC, administrative staff or at this link: APS Parent Refusal Forms Link

School Talk Message February 2021:

As the COVID pandemic continues to impact educational experiences in Arlington Public Schools (APS), we are adjusting assessments to continue to meet the needs of students, staff, local, federal, and state requirements. State and federal assessments such as ACCESS for ELLs and Standards of Learning (SOL) have not been waived and are required by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to be delivered in person at school. The reasons for in person assessment are typically for test security reasons, or a standardized assessment process must be maintained in order to maintain the reliability and validity of the assessment. Therefore, even students who have chosen the full-distance learning model may need to come to school for certain assessments. To support students’ health and safety, APS will ensure safety and security procedures are in place and social distancing is observed. Please see the document APS Assessment Guidelines: 2020-21 on the APS website for more information about how APS is addressing assessments this year.

The following assessments are scheduled to be given in school buildings per State and Federal Guidelines (subject to change):

  • ACCESS for ELLs tests between January 19 and April 16
  • Spring Writing testing for students enrolled in English 11 will begin on March 1
  • Spring Non-Writing SOL tests will be administered to students in:
    • Grades 3-5 between May 17 and June 11
    • Grades 6-8 between May 10 and June 4
    • Grades 9-11 between May 24 and June 14
    • Grade 12 April 12-30

For safety and security purposes, Arlington Public schools has made some adjustments to the testing regimen as allowed by VDOE:

  • 8th grade English will take a performance-based assessments* for Writing, scored using the State rubric.
  • Most 11th grade English students will take the ACT WorkKeys Business Writing, and although it must be taken in person, it is a much shorter State Substitute Test than the End of Course Writing SOL.
  • All History/Social Studies classes (VA Studies, EOC World Geography, VA/US history, etc.) will take performance-based assessments, scored using the State rubric.

To Learn more about Performance Assessments and Local Alternative Assessments, please visit: https://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/local_assessments/index.shtml and https://www.apsva.us/instruction/curriculum-instruction/assessment/the-parent-corner/balanced-assessment-plan-local-alternative-assessments-performance-based-assessments/

We understand that families may have concerns about their student coming into the building to participate in assessments even though there are many safety protocols in place. Parents who do not wish for their student to participate in state and/or federally mandated assessments due to COVID-19 concerns should contact their student’s administrative staff or School Testing Coordinator by phone or email to discuss scheduling options or request information on opting out for this school year. There will be no penalty for students who are not assessed, but parents will need to submit the APS Parent Refusal Form for the appropriate assessment which can be obtained from your school’s STC, administrative staff or at the link below.

Questions regarding assessment administration or requirements may be addressed to Betty.Mills@apsva.us, Assistant Director of Assessment.

APS Parent Refusal Forms Link

APS Assessment Guidelines: 2020-21

This document discusses the thought process behind the APS assessment process this school year

As the pandemic continues to impact educational experiences in APS, we are trying to adjust assessments to continue to meet the needs of students, staff, local, Federal, and State requirements. This may require that some assessments be taken in an environment other than a student’s home school building or chosen educational environment. It will also require a mind shift on the purpose of assessments.

Why do students need to take assessments?

There are two reasons for assessments: (1)Teacher instructional needs and (2) local, State, and Federal requirements. While most students and families think of assessments as a way teachers grade students, staff often see it in a different light: a way to collect data on students’ educational progress. This will be even more important now as teachers will be giving more responsibility to students to learn material independently. Assessments help teachers guide instruction for the entire class and individualize instruction for students who may need additional support or additional challenges. The State and Federal Departments of Education require certain assessments to promote student learning, and these are not optional.

Types of Assessments:

The use of ongoing assessments should drive instruction. Teachers will utilize a variety of formative assessments (e.g. exit slips, quick checks, journal entry, conferences) to monitor student understanding and mastery of skills. It is essential to provide students with timely and meaningful feedback. Digital assessment tools (i.e. Canvas quizzes, Google forms) can be used to collect different types of data to evaluate ongoing learning. The data collected should be used to help modify instruction and support students’ learning. Summative assessments (e.g. projects, essays, tests) should be used to measure students’ level of proficiency upon the end of the unit of instruction. Common formative and summative assessments can be created and administered through Performance Matters. Standardized assessments (ACCESS, SOL, VAAP, WIDA Screener, CogAT, etc.) will continue to be used to inform educational decisions and to meet requirements of VA and U.S. Department of Education (DOE).

Equity in Assessment: We want to stress that many of the decisions related to assessments are made so they are given equitably and so that all students will have an opportunity to show what they have learned on as equal a footing as possible. In addition, we will not require any student to take an assessment if it is not required of their peers, unless it is part of a local, state or federal requirement.

Virtual Assessments: Why test away from school? In the full-distance or hybrid model, the ideal is to maximize student instructional time with teachers, either in school or during synchronous (all students learning at the same time with a teacher) learning. As assessments are typically an independent or small group activity, these can be done during asynchronous (independent work) learning.

What are student and family expectations for assessments?

We understand that families have a large role in the education of their child. With that being said, we request that any assessment be completed by the student without assistance from their family members or classmates unless specifically indicated by staff. As mentioned above, the value of assessments for staff is to guide instruction, and if teachers are not getting a complete picture of student work, this could hinder their instructional progress.

What can families do to help?

We invite families to help students find a distraction free area to take the assessment, help students find the assessment browser if needed, have students take the assessment at the assigned time (if applicable), remind students that the camera on their computer MAY need to be turned on for some assessments, and encourage students to try their best. Again, assessments are meant to provide data for instruction, so it is important for students to show what they know and what they do not yet know.

Teachers should consider the following when administering assessments virtually:

  • Have a discussion around academic integrity and the importance of the student taking the test in the manner you are requesting in advance of any assessment.
  • Remind students that assessments are not only a way for you to gain insight into their learning, but also for them to self-assess their own learning.
  • Tell students explicitly what kind of collaboration is permitted and what is not (use examples).
  • Explain to students what sources they may or may not consult during the assessment and how to cite those sources if necessary.
  • Put expectations for each assessment or activity in writing so there is no misunderstanding.
  • Have students sign an affirmation statement when they turn in assessments. Samples:
    • 1. Write out this pledge and sign your name. ‘I affirm that I have not given or received any unauthorized help on this assignment, and that this work is my own.”
    • 2. “By submitting this assessment, I am affirming that I have not given or received any unauthorized help on this assignment, and that this work is my own.”

In Person Assessments during virtual and hybrid instruction :

Why test in APS school buildings or administrative offices? There may be occasions where students will need to come into school buildings to test, for example SAT, WIDA assessments, SOL, or Special Education assessments. Even students who have chosen the full-distance model may need to come to school for certain types of assessments. These are typically for test security reasons, i.e., the student needs to be observed by a professional in a testing environment, or a standardized assessment process must be maintained in order to maintain the reliability and validity of the assessment.

What are student and family expectations for assessments?

Students will need to follow these guidelines when in an APS building.

  • Assessments will be by appointment only while APS is in the full distance learning model. Once the hybrid instructional model begins, students may be tested by appointment or on a day they are in the school building. Scheduling will be at the discretion of the school. Students who elect to remain in the full distance model will test by appointment coordinated by the school.
  • All students and staff are required to follow current APS policy (ie: wear a mask/face covering) regarding personal safety on school property. Students will not be allowed in an APS building without a mask/face covering, which is required for the duration of testing. If a student has a medical exemption for not wearing a mask, this will need to be shared with staff prior to entry.
  • Gloves may be worn, but will need to be inspected prior to the start of the exam.
  • Students may bring a few #2 pencils if needed for testing
  • If using a laptop or iPad for testing, staff should ensure applications needed for the assessment have been loaded and students have run practice software PRIOR to testing day. Having students use sample questions on the app prior to live testing is the best way to make sure students’ laptops and iPads are ready to use in live testing.
  • Students must bring their charged laptop or device with them to the assessment. It is also recommended that students bring their power cord.
  • Schools will not be supplying calculators, unless arrangements are made ahead of time; students should be encouraged to bring their own. The DESMOS calculator is available on SOL assessments.
  • Food and water may be taken into the exam room but will remain on a designated table. They may be accessed only during breaks, unless a specific accommodation allows otherwise.
  • Use of electronic devices (smart watches, fitness bands, and any other devices with recording, internet, or communication capabilities) is prohibited from the time the student is admitted to the testing room until they are dismissed at the end of the test, including break times. Students should leave these devices at home. If they need to bring a cell phone, they will need to place the devices into a plastic bag, which staff will monitor during the assessments.Students will be able to retrieve their devices after testing is complete.
  • Dictionaries, headphones, and microphone headsets may be needed for certain assessments. Students can bring their own or staff can provide these materials on a limited basis. Students should verify with their teacher prior to testing.
  • Students or families who violate the requirements put in place by APS for assessment purposes will be dismissed from the assessment and will need to leave the building.

What can families do to help?

  • Review the guidelines above with their child.
  • Parents/guardians are not permitted in the building and should remain in their cars. There may be an exception to this restriction for very young children, and in this scenario, parents will need to undergo the health screening prior to entering the assessment area with their child.

Staff will need to follow these protocols for testing in a school building or APS offices.

In the Building – General:

  • Staff and students will need to undergo the health screening (i.e.temperature check and answer a series of questions related to health and potential COVID exposure) prior to entering a school property for the purpose of taking an assessment. Discuss with administrative staff how and where this will occur for your assessment.
  • Assessments will be by appointment only during full-distance learning and will occur on reporting days (Tu/W or Th/F) for hybrid students. Students who elect to remain in the full distance model will test by appointment coordinated by the school. Appointment schedules should be provided to school health to ensure there is no exclusion from in-person reporting prior to reporting.
  • Identify which doors students will enter, and notify students of this information.
  • Students are directed to their testing location upon entry, but signage will help students locate where they need to go. ● Identify the bathrooms to be used by your students during assessment administration. Also, have a procedure in place for how students will access the bathroom (one at a time, escort, when the next student can go, etc.)
  • Determine where lunch, snacks, and/or breaks will occur based on social distancing guidelines. Note: students may remove their masks briefly to eat, but social distancing must be maintained.
  • Make sure you know where the isolation room is just in case someone gets sick.
  • As students enter the room, collect cell phones and devices; students will place devices in provided plastic bags, write their name on the bag, and place the bag in the front of the room.
  • Admit students to assigned seats (this will help with social distancing if students go right to their seats), with only allowed materials. This will help with contact tracing if needed. Student belongings, including food, should be placed in a designated area.
  • Deliver the assessment following test protocol, including reading the script verbatim. Actively monitor the room.
  • When students are finished, have them raise their hand. Stagger dismissal and instruct students to leave the building immediately, as permitted by assessment protocols or school needs.
  • Securely store your assessment materials and notify your administrator that you have completed the assessment.

In the Testing Room/ Classrooms – single student:

  • The capacity and access to building space will vary based on needs and availability. APS staff should work with each building administration to determine room capacity, access, and requirements. Once needs are determined, administrators will add the request to their school’s Building Readiness Checklist. Note: Special Education has created their own room sign up system.
  • Six-foot distancing between staff and students should be practiced and maintained at 15-minute increments.
  • In the event six-foot distancing cannot occur for 15-minute increments, surgical masks per the public health algorithm and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) guidance for personal protective equipment identification will be provided by APS.
  • In the event the student is not able to wear a mask, and the staff are required to be within six feet of the student for more than 15 minutes, APS will provide a surgical mask.
  • When working with a student who is having difficulty wearing a face covering, break the skill into manageable pieces to encourage the student to continue to maintain the protocol.
  • The use of N95 face coverings should be restricted to individuals who are working with individuals who have reported illness. These situations will require fit testing per OSHA.
  • Exposure notification is predicated on individuals following the rules for checking into Raptor, into buildings, and into classes. Extensive contract tracing procedures will be followed. Isolation rooms will be identified and made available at each school.
  • Hand sanitizer will be available in the school or APS facility; gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE) will be provided if available and if it is required for testing specific students.

In the Testing Room/ Classrooms – multiple students:

In addition to the guidelines above;

  • Determine the number of students who need to be assessed at one time.
  • The capacity and access to building space will vary based on needs and availability. APS staff should work with each building administration to determine room capacity, access, and requirements. Once needs are determined, administrators will add the request to their school’s Building Readiness Checklist. Note : Special Education has created their own room sign up system.
  • Once approved, staff will verify the number of students and staff in a location to make sure it meets the guidelines above.
  • Rooms will be set up so that desks are at least 6 feet apart.
  • Allow room for a staff member to monitor the students from the front of the room, as well as walking around all students.
  • If students need to bring a laptop for testing, verify that students’ devices have updated software/applications and have had the opportunity to practice and ask questions about the testing process PRIOR to testing day. Instruction for loading software on laptop/device may need to be provided.
  • Document seating locations of students by creating a seating chart which includes student arrival time and student departure time.
  • Staff members can hand out materials and test tickets. Please try to place the materials on the student’s desk and avoid physical contact if possible.
  •  Staff should develop cleaning protocols with their administrative staff for headsets, microphones, and other manipulatives that are used by students.
  • If a staff member needs to enter an access code on a students computer, please consider using a procedure similar to the following:
    • Have the student place the computer on a centralized table and then move back 6 feet from the table. You may want to have a tape mark the student stands on.
    • The staff member who had been waiting 6 feet away will then move to the computer and enter the access code. We recommend the use of gloves by the staff member.
    • The staff member will then move 6 feet away and the student will retrieve the computer.