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Raising SOL Test Scores Through Improved Classroom Assessment



•Management of schools like  factories to maximize efficiency

•Ability tracking and differentiated curriculum

•Sequential small steps

•Detailed specification of objectives

•Time constant; learning varies


•Backward instructional design

•All students can learn

•Higher standards

•Learning constant; time and approach vary

•Emphasis on deep understanding, thinking and problem solving

•Equal opportunity to diverse learners

•Authenticity in learning



•Isolated skills and facts

•Recall knowledge and simple understanding

•Objective, paper and pencil tests

•Single correct answer

•Secret standards and criteria


•Sporadic with little feedback


•Integrated knowledge and skills

•Deep understanding, application and problem solving

•Performance assessments

•Public standards and criteria


•Student self-evaluation

•Continual with specific feedback


Bloom’s Taxonomy



  • Characteristics
    • Recall; memory, “gi-go”
  •   Examples

    • know, list, state, recite, name

  This thinking skill tells you that a student can recall or recognize information, concepts, and ideas in the approximate form in which they were learned.


  •  Characteristics

    • translate, put in own words, summarize
  • Examples
    • Translate, put in own words, summarize

This thinking skill tells you that a student can grasp and interpret prior learning. The student can tell it in his/her own words.



  • Characteristics
    • use in a NEW setting; simulate, role play
  • Examples
    • use, make, produce, prove

 This thinking skill tells you that a student can transfer selected information to a life problem or a new task with a minimum of direction.



  • Characteristics
    • take apart, identify relationships
  • Examples
    • predict, infer, discriminate, hypothesize  


  • Characteristics

·        Create NEW

  • Examples
    • Compile, formulate, produce, reconstruct organize


This thinking skill tells you that a student can originate, combine, and integrate parts or prior knowledge into a product, plan or proposal that is new. 


  • Characteristics
    • Make choice w/ criteria
  •   Examples

    • argue, conclude, defend, justify, validate

This thinking skill tells you that a student can appraise, assess, or criticize on the basis of specific standards and criteria.

An Audience Test

While Bloom’s Taxonomy has six levels, the nature of level five and six, synthesis and evaluation do not lend them to multiple choice questions.  Which of the following four “levels” of cognition are required to answer each of the following test items:

    A. Knowledge (recognize information previously learned)

    B. Comprehension (grasp & interprets prior learning)

    C. Application (transfer info. to a new life problem)

    D. Analysis (classify, predict, and draw conclusions)


SOL 4.4a
The student will describe the social and political life of Virginians between the Revolutionary War and the end of the Civil War, with emphasis on:
contributions of Virginians to the establishment of the U.S Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the success of the new national government.

Question 1
A. Knowledge, B. Comprehension, C. Application, D. Analysis

     Who was president of the Constitutional Convention?

        A   James Madison

        B   Thomas Jefferson

        C   George Washington

        D   John Adams

Question 2
A. Knowledge, B. Comprehension, C. Application, D. Analysis

Which U.S. Constitutional Amendment was based on the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom?

          A   the First Amendment

          B   the Second Amendment

          C   the Fourth Amendment

         D   the Tenth Amendment

Question 3
A. Recall, B. Comprehension, C. Application, D. Analysis

 Which of the following was not a result of the Louisiana Purchase?

            A   the U.S. doubled in size.

    B   the U.S. made a great deal with France.

            C   the U.S. gained control of the Mississippi River.

            D   the U.S. made a great deal with Spain.

Question 4
A. Recall, B. Comprehension, C. Application, D. Analysis

The Bill of Rights was based on which document written by George Mason

   A   The Virginia Constitution

   B   The Virginia Plan

   C   The Virginia Declaration of Rights

   D   The Virginia Compromise

SOL 4.1b
The student will explain the impact of geographic factors in the expansion and development of Virginia with emphasis on the location and growth of cities in relation to the Atlantic Ocean, the Chesapeake Bay, major rivers, the fall line/fall zone, and the Shenandoah Valley.

Question 5
A. Recall, B. Comprehension, C. Application, D. Analysis

Which of the following is not a reason the English settled at the mouth of the James River?

          A   It was rich in natural resources.

          B   It had a good harbor.

          C   It had rich gold deposits.

          D   It was easy to defend.


Question 6

Which of the following cities is located on the fall line?

A   Chesapeake

B   Richmond

C   Roanoke

D Newport News

 SOL 4.2d
The student will use the concepts of absolute location and relative location to construct physical maps and three-dimensional models that include the essential map elements and the geographic regions of Virginia and the United States.  

Question 7

The coastal plain, one of the geographic regions of the United States, is equivalent to what geographic region in Virginia?

          A   Tidewater

B   Piedmont

C   Ridge and Valley

D   Allegheny Plateau

 Parts of Multiple Choice Item

Which of the following is the name of the "Father of the Constitution"? (Stem)

   A  James Madison (Keyed Correct Answer)

   B  George Washington (Distracter)

   C  James Monroe  (Distracter)

   D  George Mason  (Distracter)

(A-D are also referred to as Options)

Guidelines for a Good Multiple-Choice Item

•Test item measures taught material.

•Test item difficulty reflects difficulty/complexity of learning outcome.

•Problem is stated clearly.

•Stem is states as a question.

•Stem is worded positively.

•Options appear in logical order.

•Options are listed vertically.

•Stem contains the central idea of item.

•Negative wording is controlled (avoided if possible).

•Options are consistent in length.

•Only one item is the correct answer.

•“None of the above” and “All of the above” are used carefully (not over-used).

•Distracters must be plausible.

•Four options are used (if desire to match SOL items).

•Position of correct answer is balanced (close to the same number of a, b, etc. answers).  (REMEMBER standardized text designers use C most frequently).


n     Content Validity—the test item should match the content that was taught.

n     Test items should engage higher order thinking (comprehension to evaluation).  Avoid just testing for memorization of facts.  Try to get to application and preferably analysis.

n     Reliability—the design of the test should support gathering information about what the learners actually know.


Steps to Good Assessment

      WHAT--Organized curriculum to be taught

      HOW--Strategies that implement measurable objectives

      SO WHAT--Assessment that links the curriculum or “what” and the instructional methods or “how” to determine the learning taking place

Strategies for Testing


•Teach and test at the analysis level.

•Teach precision vocabulary.

•Teach decoding skills.  Decode cartoon, pictures, documents, written word.

•Teach good use of time.

•Practice interpretation and organization of information.

•Teach isolation and the use of known information.

•Help students build and use a broad base of knowledge and skills.

•Teach higher order thinking skills.  Empower students to think!

 Strategies that Make a Difference

Strategy                                                            Percentile Gain

Identifying similarities and differences                                                 45

Summarizing note taking                                                                       34

Reinforcing effort and providing recognition                                        29

Assigning homework and practice                                                        28

Generating non-linguistic representations                                            27

Using cooperative learning                                                                    27

Setting objectives and providing feedback                                           23

Generating and testing hypothesis                                                         25

Providing cues, questions, and advanced organizers                          22


Based on research of Robert Marzano et al, 


He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.

                                        ~Friedrich Nietzsche 



      Mulligan, Dan.  “Remediation and the SOL.”  PowerPoint, 2000.

      Roland, Pam.  “Bloom’s Taxonomy.”  Teaching for Standards Mastery, UVA. PowerPoint, January, 2000.

      Texas State Website.  Released Items.  (Harcourt Brace writes their tests also)


This page was updated on:  04/10/02