A Summary of U.S. Public School Standardized Testing Waivers for School Year 2019-2020

As the 2019-2020 school year comes to an end, many states across the country have cancelled school for the remainder of the academic year in response to the rapid spread of the CoronaVirus-19 around the world.

In response, school districts are working hard to make the adjustments necessary to keep students engaged and in the academic loop, keep teachers employed and paid, and make sure deserving seniors graduate this spring.  To help alleviate the pressure, the federal government has ruled that schools can choose the option of bypassing standardized testing for this school year.  Many states have already canceled standardized testing for this academic year as they face school closures that could last until the end of the school year. The tests were scheduled to begin in early April in many states.

The LevittownNow news in Levittown, Pennsylvania reported that: “The decision comes amid national pressure to cancel high-stakes testing — an annual tradition in America’s public schools. Figures as divergent as the Chicago Teachers Union and the right-wing American Enterprise Institute have called for a testing hiatus.” https://levittownnow.com/2020/03/20/state-cancels-standardized-testing-because-of-covid-19/.

The U.S. Department of Education was listening, and on March 20, 2020 People magazine ran a piece that does a great job of explaining how the testing hiatus will work:

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced in a press release that the department would be offering schools an option to bypass standardized testing for the 2019-2020 academic year as they cope with the impact of the health crisis.

“Students need to be focused on staying healthy and continuing to learn. Teachers need to be able to focus on remote learning and other adaptations,” DeVos said. “Neither students nor teachers need to be focused on high-stakes tests during this difficult time. Students are simply too unlikely to be able to perform their best in this environment.”

“All states are mandated to test students each year in grades three through eight and once in high school. The tests, which typically occur in the spring, cover the students’ understanding of common core subjects, including English and math.”  https://people.com/human-interest/education-dept-bypassing-standardized-tests-student-loan-relief-coronavirus/.

By way of further helpful clarification, on March 22, 2020, the following information was posted to https://www.bglaw.com/coronavirus-covid-19-dept-of-education-allows-states-to-waive-standardized-tests-impact-on-massachusetts-schools/” and includes an indication of what states must do to be eligible to waive standardized testing requirements for this school year:

“On March 20, 2020, Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, announced that states can bypass standardized testing for the 2019-2020 school year due to COVID-19. States that are unable to assess their students due to COVID-19 are invited to submit a waiver to the United States Department of Education through their Chief School Officer or authorized delegate. A template of the waiver form can be found here.

Any state that seeks and receives this one-year waiver may also receive a waiver from the requirement that the testing data from statewide assessments be used in the statewide accountability system. States also will not be required to make annual accountability determinations, to identify schools for support and improvement, to provide state data and local report cards for assessment and accountability information.”

Also on March 20, ABC News/Coronavirus Government Response posted a story informing the public that President Trump had announced the decision to waive standardized testing requirements for all public schools effective for the 2019-2020 school year.

President Donald Trump on Friday announced that the Education Department will not enforce standardized test requirements for the current school year, as the novel coronavirus outbreak continues to force schools across the country to close.

“With many schools closed due to the virus, the Department of Education will not enforce standardized testing requirements,” Trump said. “Very importantly, for students in elementary through high school for the current year. They’ve been through a lot. They’ve been going back and forth — schools open, schools not open.

According to the Education Department, the agency will grant a waiver to ‘any state that is unable to assess its students due to the ongoing national emergency, providing relief from federally mandated testing requirements for this school year.’ ” (https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/government-response-updates-white-house-briefing-expected-amid/story?id=69706088)

Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera did a great job of summarizing the issue for all public schools when he said in a statement:

“Our school communities are operating within unprecedented conditions. Schools are making extraordinary efforts to remain connected to students and families, to provide food service and to put appropriate systems in place to continue student learning. Assessments should not be the focus of school leaders right now.” (https://www.tribdem.com/corona_virus/department-of-education-cancels-standardized-tests/article_caa34938-6a1e-11ea-adbc-53f9afd7f5dc.html)

For specific information about standardized testing cancellations for your school or school district, visit your state’s Department of Education website.