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Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

Inside the WorkKeys Exam, an Alternative to the Writing SOL

Inside+the+WorkKeys+Exam%2C+an+Alternative+to+the+Writing+SOL

Casey Donahue

Staff Writer

The Writing Standards of Learning (SOL) test is a standardized exam completed by 11th grade students in Virginia to provide a “verified” credit (for graduation requirements) and reflect the degree to which teachers are effectively instructing their students. However, the ACT WorkKeys is a valid replacement for the Writing SOL and is not widely known.

The WorkKeys assessment, created by American College Testing which administers the ACT college admissions exam,  is a one-prompt, 45 minute test— this is different from the Writing SOL, which is a two-day untimed test that has a multiple choice section as well as a free-response essay section.

“They are extremely different tests,” said International Academy teacher Corrina Reamer. “The [WorkKeys] was not designed for high school students, but rather for businesses to use to check reading and writing skills of potential employees. This is what makes it so relevant to students.” 

Junior Christopher Salazar didn’t know what the WorkKeys exam was or that it was an option to take but learned about it from a friend. “I would rather take the WorkKeys because it seems like a shorter exam,” he said.

Wendy Castro, a junior, agreed that she’d rather take the WorkKeys. “[I’d choose] the WorkKeys because I feel like the Writing SOL is more strict with the grading,” she said.

According to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) website, the WorkKeys falls under the category of “substitute tests [of the SOL] approved for awarding credit.” All substitute tests are given in English, and the scoring methods have been adapted to acceptably measure proficiency based on education standards.

Denver Brunsman, the father of an ACHS junior, says that he appreciates the existence of SOL substitutes for students. “As a parent, it pleases me to know that there are different options to assess learning,” he said.

 The VDOE Board grants individual school divisions the ability to nominate exams that have the potential to be alternate options to the SOL.

“[In ACPS, the WorkKeys] writing is used as a substitute for students who don’t pass the SOL,” said ACHS testing coordinator Dr. Sarah Meaker. Fairfax County Public Schools uses the WorkKeys in the same way: it only allows students to take the WorkKeys exam if they “failed the SOL test and need verified credit for graduation,” according to its website. However, Arlington Public Schools website differs from this and remarks that “accommodations are available and need to be made through counselors.” 

Currently, the ACPS website does not have any information on the WorkKeys Writing exam. “I do not know [how a student would change to taking the WorkKeys], but I think admin, Central Office and the testing team are working on a system for this,” Reamer said.

Featured image graphic by Casey Donahue for Theogony

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Inside the WorkKeys Exam, an Alternative to the Writing SOL