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Federal government gives state guidance on student assessment testing

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The federal government is now giving guidance to state educators about standardized testing and Indiana is making changes due to the pandemic.

The Indiana Department of Education said assessment tests will happen this spring in an extended window of time. The state makes it clear that their goal is to only use assessment tests as a source of information on student progress, and schools will not be held accountable for the results.

“IDOE has already requested a federal waiver for calculating accountability determinations and is collaborating with state legislators to ensure schools are held harmless for the test results by issuing a null grade for the current school year. IDOE is also working with state policymakers for guidance in flexibility in graduation requirements, making sure that students also don’t face consequences due to the pandemic,” said Indiana Department of Education deputy director of communications, Holly Lawson.

The state also said it recognizes the pandemic’s impact on all students but on especially low-income and minority children. IDOE wants these tests to be a snapshot of student progress and a reality check on the COVID-19 impact on education.

The U.S. Department of Education is urging states to take similar measures when it comes to assessment testing. The federal guidance makes clear that states should consider the ways they can do things differently this year. Flexibility available to states includes:

  • Extending the testing window and moving assessments to the summer or fall
  • Giving the assessment remotely, where feasible
  • Shortening the state assessment, to make testing more feasible to implement and prioritize in-person learning time

In addition to encouraging flexibility around assessments, the federal government is allowing states to request a waiver for the Every Student Succeeds Act’s accountability and school identification requirements. This flexibility will explicitly include waiving the accountability provisions relating to having a 95% test participation rate.

The US Department of Education’s letter to Chief State School Officers outlining its plans for the 2020-2021 school year can be found here.