U.S. Education Department will not provide assessment waivers, but institutes flexibility

The U.S. Department of Department of Education released a letter on Feb. 22 stating that assessment, accountability and reporting requirements for the 2020–21 school year will not be waived. The letter says that assessments are needed to “understand the impact COVID-19 has had on learning and identify what resources and supports students need. We must also specifically be prepared to address the educational inequities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, including by using student learning data to enable states, school districts, and schools to target resources and supports to the students with the greatest needs. In addition, parents need information on how their children are doing.”

The department acknowledged the difficulties brought on by the pandemic and will offer significant flexibility for the 2020–21 school year:

  • Accountability and school identification. States may request a waiver from the accountability and school identification requirements. Each state that receives the accountability and school identification waivers would be required to continue to support previously identified schools in the 2021–22 school year, resume school identification in the fall of 2022 and ensure transparency to parents and the public, including publicly reporting the percentage of students not assessed, disaggregated by student subgroup.
  • Transparency and public reporting. All state and local report card requirements are still in effect, including the requirements to disaggregate data by student subgroup (except for reporting related to accountability, such as school ratings). As a condition of waiving accountability and school identification requirements, all states will be required to publicly report disaggregated chronic absenteeism data and, to the extent the state or school district already collects such information, data on student and educator access to technology devices like laptops or tablets and to high-speed internet at home.
  • If a school or school district cannot safely administer statewide summative assessments this spring using their standard practices, flexibilities states can consider include:
    • Administering a shortened version of its statewide assessments
    • Offering remote administration, where feasible; and/or
    • Extending the testing window to the greatest extent practicable. That could include offering multiple testing windows and/or extending the testing window into the summer or even the beginning of the 2021–22 school year. States that elect to extend testing windows should also consider how they can make results available to the public in a timely manner after assessments are administered.

The next meeting of the California State Board of Education on March 17–18 will surely discuss this issue. Tune into the meeting at www.cde.ca.gov/be/ag/ag/sbewebcastarchive.asp.

Read the letter.