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States waive mandated standardized tests; SAT cancels May exam, and April's ACT is rescheduled

By VALERIE STRAUSS | The Washington Post | Published: March 16, 2020

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Texas announced Monday it is waiving standardized testing requirements for the 2019-2020 school year because of the coronavirus pandemic, following Washington state in what is likely to be widespread canceling of federally mandated exams.

The ACT college admissions test scheduled for April 4 is being rescheduled for June 13, according to ACT Inc., which owns the exam. The College Board, which owns the SAT, announced it has canceled its exam scheduled for May 2 and would refund money for students who already registered.

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement Monday the requirements for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STARR, would be waived, and he called on the U.S. Education Department to waive federal testing requirements.

The department said it would consider giving states waivers from federal testing mandates included in the Every Student Succeeds Act but has not issued a blanket waiver. The department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"Your health and safety are top priorities, and the state of Texas will give school districts flexibility to protect and ensure the health of students, faculty, and their families," Abbott said in a statement. "We will empower schools to make the best decisions to protect their communities from COVID-19."

Texas officials said some districts remaining open want to administer the STARR test and authorities are trying to determine whether that is feasible.

Last week, Washington Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee released guidance for schools saying, "state assessments are cancelled for the remainder of the 2020 school year." That includes the Smarter Balanced Assessments in English language arts and math for grades three though eight and 10, and half-a-dozen other standardized exams.

At least 33 states and Washington D.C. have closed schools, many in the middle of spring standardized testing season. States use the results for different purposes, including to meet a federal testing mandate designed to assess how schools are helping students learn. There are other tests, too, including for high school graduation, third-grade retention and school voucher eligibility.

More than half of states use student standardized test scores to evaluate teachers. Texas does. Washington state does not require the use of federally mandated tests to evaluate teachers. But it requires educators to be assessed on "student growth," and school districts may use test scores to do so.

It remains unclear how authorities in some states will alter their teacher assessments.

Washington and Texas are likely to be "the tip of the iceberg," said Bob Schaeffer, interim executive director of the nonprofit National Center for Fair and Open Testing, or FairTest, which seeks to end the misuse of standardized tests.

"Canceling annual testing should become the default policy in jurisdictions that do not resume school by early April when most state exams are scheduled to begin," Schaeffer said.

"Forcing students who have been out of their classrooms for weeks or more to take standardized exams soon after they return makes no sense educationally or psychologically," he said. "Scores from tests administered under those circumstances would have even less meaning than usual because of lack of learning time and disruptions from the coronavirus."

Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine closed all public schools last week and said "common sense" would be the rule moving forward and scheduled standardized testing is likely not to happen. Ohio education officials said they would work with lawmakers and others to provide flexibility.

"If we can't have testing this year, we will not have testing this year," DeWine said. "The world will not come to an end."

The International Baccalaureate organization said on its website it cannot alter its exam schedule.

ACT Inc. said in a statement Monday it was moving the ACT college admissions exam from April 4 to June 13.

"ACT is committed to making every effort to help those students impacted by this test date change, particularly those high school seniors who are facing deadlines for fall 2020 college admission," ACT CEO Marten Roorda said.

The College Board had proceeded with the March administration of the SAT but allowed individual sites to cancel and scores did. On Monday, it announced the cancellation of the May 2 SAT exam and makeups for the March exam.

"We have not yet canceled the June 6, 2020, SAT administration and will continue to assess its status with the health and safety of students and educators as our top priority," the College Board said.
 

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