West Virginia wasn’t going to do public school statewide standardized testing either way this spring, the state superintendent has said, but now the U.S. Education Department has said the state won’t face repercussions.
Current high school juniors, who get a free SAT each spring because it’s the standardized test for that grade, are planned to instead get that free college entrance exam in the fall, said West Virginia Department of Education spokeswoman Christy Day.
On March 17, they day after public schools closed statewide to help stop the coronavirus spread, state schools Superintendent Clayton Burch sent U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos a letter.
The letter simultaneously announced West Virginia’s testing cancellation and requested a waiver from the rules surrounding it.
Almost all states have requested similar waivers or have already received them, Education Week has reported.
Federal law requires states to give public school students in grades three through eight and once in high school annual standardized tests in math and English. Statewide science standardized testing is also required in at least one grade in elementary, middle and high school.
On Friday, the U.S. Education Department issued a news release saying “upon a proper request, the Department 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.”
DeVos said she told her department to streamline the process to request these waivers.
“Students need to be focused on staying healthy and continuing to learn,” DeVos said in the release. “Teachers need to be able to focus on remote learning and other adaptations. 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,” she said. “Our actions today provide turnkey flexibilities for state and local leaders to focus on the immediate needs of their students and educators without worrying about federal repercussions.”
Her department approved West Virginia’s waiver request by Monday.
The test results make up much of West Virginia’s school accountability system, which produces the color-coded scorecard ratings and helps identify which public schools receive extra state support to help increase scores.
It’s unclear how West Virginia’s accountability system for this school year will function now.
“Right now our focus has really been just feeding children and what the rest of the school year looks like for them,” Burch said.
The West Virginia Department of Education isn’t requiring that the days schools are physically closed due to this be made up, “so long as staff continue to support students and families, which may be accomplished in a variety of ways.”