With 44 states, the District of Columbia and numerous districts in other states having closed schools as of Thursday, affecting at least 47.9 million students, according to a tally kept by Education Week, some officials say it is impossible to administer exams anytime soon.
More than half-dozen states — including Florida, Georgia, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Washington — have canceled or postponed the tests before getting federal approval. And more than twice that number have asked the Education Department for a waiver from federal requirements that students in most grades take annual tests for accountability purposes.
In Pennsylvania, Education Secretary Pedro Rivera said Thursday he was cancelling all standardized tests, saying in a statement, “Assessments should not be the focus of school leaders right now.”
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) issued an executive order Wednesday saying he was seeking a waiver from the federal government to cancel exams given to more than 6 million students.
Other states didn’t wait for the waiver. In West Virginia, state Superintendent Clayton Burch said he was canceling standardized testing, and in a letter to DeVos, he announced the move and sought a waiver from her, the West Virginia Gazette reported. “I thank you in advance for your approval of our waiver request based on our decision to suspend 2019-2020 testing,” the letter read.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Tuesday he was scrapping the state’s standardized testing regime — before getting federal permission — and giving parents the option of keeping their children in the same grade next year. For now, Florida schools are closed until April 15, but that could be extended. Kansas has canceled the entire spring semester and other states are expected to do the same.
States give standardized tests for purposes other than to meet federal accountability requirements, including for high school graduation, third-grade retention, teacher evaluation and school voucher eligibility. Most officials haven’t begun to think about how they will make decisions about key issues without the exam results they have come to depend on.
Even college admissions and graduate school exams have been canceled, including the April administration of the LSAT, the entrance exam for law school applicants. The College Board, which owns the SAT, has canceled its May 2 exam, and the ACT test scheduled for April 4 has been rescheduled for June 13. Case Western Reserve University, which normally requires an SAT or ACT score for admission, said it would waive that for the upcoming application season.
The College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, said in a statement on its website that it is considering allowing students to take the AP exams this spring at home “depending on the situation in May."
But one superintendent, Michael J. Hynes of the Port Washington Union Free School District on Long Island, N.Y., said the fact that AP exams have not been canceled is “causing anxiety for teachers and kids."
“They will gear their [online] lessons around the exams, making sure they are prepping their kids,” he said. “That’s the last thing we want teachers and students to be worrying about now.”
DeVos may be moving to provide blanket waivers releasing schools from the federal mandates. Several days ago, her department released guidance saying it would consider waivers from states seeking to alter their testing regimes, but a department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly, said something broader was being considered. The department did not respond to an inquiry about this, but Angela Morabito, a department spokeswoman, told Education Week that broad waivers may be forthcoming.
“Secretary DeVos asked our K-12 team to work on broad waiver authority for the states, and it will be ready to be pushed out to education leaders in the coming days,” she said, but did not explain what that would look like.
Education leaders have been asking the federal government for guidance on this and other issues.
On Thursday, more than 45 executive directors of education organizations sent a letter to Congress asking lawmakers to give DeVos the authority to grant statewide waivers from federally mandated exams. It is not clear if she has to wait for Congress to issue waivers.
Michael Rice, Michigan’s state superintendent of public instruction, urged DeVos to grant nationwide waivers of exams. And Jason Kamras, superintendent of Richmond public schools, tweeted, “Dear Fed Gov, We need: 1. Bailout package for $ being spent on non-reimbursable (but essential) food for kids. 2. Policy package to waive testing & other requirements that are impossible to comply with right now. Hangin’ in there, but need help.”
Here is an updated list of what states are doing regarding tests, most of it coming from Education Week:
California: Seeking waiver to suspend testing
Colorado: Put tests “on pause” for remainder of the school year
Florida: Canceled tests for the remainder of the school year
Georgia: Suspended tests until further notice
Indiana: Seeking approval of delay in testing
Iowa: Seeking waiver to suspend testing
Kansas: Seeking waiver to suspend testing
Louisiana: Shelving tests and seeking waiver of state testing
Maine: Suspended testing; in talks with the College Board to decide whether to administer April 14 school-day SAT
Michigan: Seeking waiver to suspend testing
Mississippi: Seeking waiver to cancel testing
Montana: Seeking waiver to suspend testing
Nebraska: Delayed testing
Pennsylvania: Cancelling tests
New York: Postponed the mailing of exams and seeking waiver to cancel testing
South Carolina: Seeking waiver to suspend testing
Virginia: Seeking waiver to suspend testing
Washington: Canceled tests for the remainder of the school year
West Virginia: Canceled tests and sought a waiver
Wisconsin: Seeking waiver to suspend testing