Superintendent’s Memo #214-12

State seal, Commonwealth of Virginia

Department of Education

August 24, 2012

TO:  Division Superintendents

FROM:  Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction

SUBJECT:  New Reading and Writing Tests Based on the 2010 English Standards of Learning

As communicated in Superintendent’s Memorandum No. 278-11, dated September 30, 2011, implementation of the new reading and writing tests based on the 2010 English Standards of Learning (SOL) will begin with the fall 2012 administration for the end-of-course (EOC) reading test and with the spring 2013 administration for the grades 3 through 8 reading tests and the grades 5, 8, and EOC writing tests.

New Blueprints

New blueprints for all reading and writing tests have been posted since September 2011 on the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) Web page at:  The blueprints indicate the new reporting categories for each test, the number of test items in each reporting category, and the number of field test items per test.

Stand-Alone Items

Stand-alone reading and writing items will still appear grouped as a block of items on the tests but will not necessarily be located at the end of the test.  Instead, they may be grouped together in various sections of the reading and writing tests.

Technology-Enhanced Items

Technology-enhanced items (TEI) will be included in the new reading and writing online tests. These items will comprise approximately 15 percent of each test.

Use of Color

Color will be used for some test items in the online versions of the new reading and writing SOL tests.  Colors used with items will be suitable for students with a color vision deficiency and will appear in gray scale should the item be presented in paper format.

Emphasis Words

Emphasis words such as most, main, and best will no longer be emphasized by italics or capital letters on any SOL reading and writing test.  The only exceptions will be the words NOT and EXCEPT, which will continue to be emphasized with capital letters on all reading and writing SOL tests except for grade 3.  The grade 3 reading test will not contain test items with the words NOT and EXCEPT.

Short Paper Component of the Writing Test

The second component of the grades 5, 8 and EOC writing test requires students to compose a short paper from a given prompt.  Students taking the grade 5 writing test will write a short paper in response to a narrative or expository prompt.  Students taking the grade 8 writing test will respond to an expository or persuasive prompt.  Students taking the EOC writing test will respond to a persuasive prompt.  The short paper scoring rubric for grades 5 and 8 requires students to write a well developed response on the topic addressed in the prompt.  The EOC scoring rubric specifies that elements of persuasive writing should be demonstrated in the short paper responses.


In late fall 2012, a list of approved writing prompts for each new writing test will be posted on the VDOE Web site.  Beginning in spring 2013, prompts for each short paper administration will be selected from this list.  Notification will be sent to divisions when the grade level lists of writing prompts have been posted.

Checklist for Writers

New checklists for writers (grades 5, 8 and EOC) have been developed for use with the 2010 English SOL.  The checklist for writers may be found at:

SOL Practice Items and Guides

To support student preparation for test questions that assess the 2010 English SOL, a set of practice items for all reading and writing tests has been developed and posted to the VDOE Web site.  These practice items include both technology-enhanced items (TEI) and multiple-choice items and will provide students an opportunity to become familiar with the types of test questions that will be administered to assess the 2010 English SOL.  The sets of SOL practice items and their guides can be found at:

SOL Reading Practice Item Guides and SOL Writing Practice Item Guides, which may be used by teachers or other adults to guide students through the practice items, are provided for each set of practice items.  While the use of the guides with the practice items is not required, it is strongly encouraged, as it will help to ensure that students are familiar with the types of items and tools they may encounter in the new online assessments.

In addition, a practice tool that mirrors the online interface that students use to respond to the prompt component of the writing test is available on the VDOE Web site.  Teachers are encouraged to use this practice tool with their students throughout the school year.  The Writing Practice Tools and guide can be found at:

Additional practice reading items will be released in fall for EOC Reading.  Additional practice items for grades 3-8 reading will be released in spring 2013.  All items are representative of the various types of items found on the new reading SOL tests and include items which reflect the new rigor.

If you have any questions, please contact the student assessment staff at or by telephone at (804) 225-2102.