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Virginia parents take SOL tests and struggle

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ROANOKE, VA - Students across Virginia could start taking the SOL tests Monday.

"Kind of scared because I don't want to fail them," said Casey Cunningham who goes to Colonial Elementary in Botetourt County.

"Kind of nervous, like I'm not going to get a good grade," said Jack Bowman, a Roanoke student.

They are talking about the SOLs.  As third graders Cunningham Bowman take the SOLs for the first time this year.

"Third grade has been quite the eye opener for me as a parent. There's a ton of testing," said Laura Bowman a parent and the Roanoke County Council of PTAs President.

We put parents to the test. Five parents all with third grade students attending schools in Botetourt County, Roanoke County and Roanoke City. We gave them fifth grade SOL practice tests.

In Virginia studies questions including "Which geographic region of Virginia has many rolling hills and waterfalls?"

The answer is Piedmont but all five parents got it wrong.

We gave them math questions too that included fractions, angles and of course the classic word problem.

"Michael has a total of ten pies to serve. This table shows the amounts of pie Michael has already served. Which mixed number represents the total amount of pie Michael has left to serve?"

Again a question all of our parents got wrong.

"The math I think it made me want my head to explode sometimes. It was kind of frustrating. I kind of rushed through it and guessed on a lot of things," said Laura Bowman.

We also gave them a reading test. A combination of multiple choice, drag and drop and fill in the blank questions.

"It's a challenging test," said Michael Harig, one of our parents who took the test.

Most of our parents weren't shocked by the results.

"Goodness gracious.  That's hard. Wow" said Kara Hogue, a parent.

"I'm not surprised. I was trying to go back to high school," said Tammy Caldwell, a parent.

One parent failed the reading. Two failed virginia studies. Two failed math, with one right on the edge.

"Folks expect their experience to be the experience of their child in school today and the expectation on the children today is absolutely nowhere near where it is when we went to school," said Ben Williams the Roanoke County associate director of testing and remediation who says testing has changed dramatically in the last decade. "Now it's about application, it's about critical thinking, it's not about just learning, memorization, how to do an equation. It's about how to apply the equation and fit it into a real life situation."

Making it sometimes difficult for parents to keep up.

"If I'm having trouble with this I don't know how he's going to have difficulties with it. It will either be extra time at school or a tutor and it's just less time to focus on being a kid and the way we grew up. We all took standardized tests, but they weren't this extreme," said Caldwell.

Williams suggests if you notice your child is having trouble with the content be in constant contact with the teachers. They can walk you through their approach and you can work together to come up with a strategy.

If you want to take the tests you can visit the Virginia Department of Education practice test section.
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