Private schools are different than public schools in many ways. Most of the differences, such as smaller class sizes, more one-on-one attention, more experienced teachers and a wider course selection, are advantages for private school students.
However, there’s another thing you should understand when it comes to enrolling your child in a private school; private schools don’t have to abide by Virginia’s Standards of Learning.
While this might seem like a drawback, it’s actually not. We’ll explain why the Standards of Learning can actually be limiting and why it’s beneficial for students to attend school that aren’t guided by those standards.
What Are The Standards of Learning?
The Standards of Learning (SOL) is a standardized testing program that all Virginia public schools have to abide by. The program establishes the learning and achievement expectations for core subjects, such as math, English, history, and science, for grades K-12. These standards theoretically represent what teachers, parents and school administrators believe the students should learn.
The Standards of Learning program was implemented as a result of the No Child Left Behind policy that was signed into law by President George W. Bush. As part of the state’s Standards of Learning, students are assessed in English and math in grades 3-8 and following the completion of certain high school classes. Students are assessed in science and history in grades three, five and eight, as well as at the end of high school courses in these subjects.
To pass the Standards of Learning tests, students must score at least a 400, which amounts to getting 66.66% of the answers correct.
What’s the Drawback of the Standards of Learning?
Private schools do not depend on the funding that public schools rely on, which means they do not have to abide by the same Standards of Learning.
While at first glance, this may seem like a drawback, it can actually be a major advantage. That’s because private schools do not have to focus on the same curriculum as public schools. They can add to the curriculum, thereby targeting the specific needs of their students.
For example, many private schools are religious-based, which means they incorporate classes based on religious texts into their curriculum. This can be advantageous for parents who want religion to be a big part of their children’s lives and education.
There’s also a lot of controversy concerning the Standards of Learning program in general. Detractors of the program believe that the Standards of Learning testing forces teachers to teach their students to test, and that high test scores aren’t indicative of whether students are being properly educated or not. This forces teachers to focus on certain areas of different subjects due to the fact that schools with poor test scores may be penalized in terms of funding.
It can also affect other subjects. With students being forced to focus so much on core subjects in order to obtain the necessary test scores, classes that focus on the arts, foreign languages, music and other such programs tend to suffer.
Basically, the Standards of Learning narrows the ability of public schools to provide a more well-rounded education that better suits the educational needs and interests of their students.
How do Private Schools Manage Educational Standards?
There is still some controversy surrounding how public schools are forced to abide by the Standards of Learning and private schools are not. Supporters of the Standards of Learning see it as an accountability issue. By not being forced to abide by the Standards of Learning, they think that private schools have no accountability.
In a way, they’re not wrong. There are private schools out there that may not offer the strongest curriculum because they lack accountability.
But not being tied to those regulations also means that schools like Brook Road Academy can emphasize the development of skills that will benefit students later in life, especially as they enter high school or go on to pursue various college degrees or careers.
Instead of being forced to prepare our students for tests, we can actually prepare them for life itself. In addition to focusing on core subjects, we also require computer literacy for graduation. We understand that computer literacy is vital to modern times and just as important in today’s careers as any core subject.
We also emphasize the importance of study skills through the development of self-discipline. Self-discipline is something that will come in handy at all stages of life. Besides the ability to focus on the development of our students and not just their test scores, we are also free to implement more modern and effective methods for learning.
For example, instead of forcing students to listen to lectures and fill out practice tests on a daily basis, we value a more conversational approach to learning. We can do this in part thanks to our small class sizes.
A conversational approach to learning is unique from typical public school methods. It involves more one-on-one attention with the teachers and encourages students to participate in their classes instead of becoming spectators, as is often the case in public school classrooms.
Such an approach not only ensures that students receive the attention they need so that they can keep up with coursework but also helps to build confidence in their thoughts, ideas and willingness to speak up.
While the Standards of Learning were implemented with good intentions, many critics of the program believe that it’s actually hindering the education of children who are going to public school.
Because private schools, like Brook Road Academy, do not have to abide by these standards, we can provide a more well-rounded education while also implementing new and advanced learning methods.