Feds waive school testing mandate this year; Ohio’s next steps unclear

Ohio’s state testing window for K-12 schools was supposed to open March 23. It was delayed because of school closures.
Ohio’s state testing window for K-12 schools was supposed to open March 23. It was delayed because of school closures.

Ohio’s spring state testing for K-12 schools is still up in the air, but the U.S. Department of Education removed a big obstacle Friday, announcing that it will waive the federal piece of testing requirements for states that seek a waiver.

Ohio Department of Education officials had already said they would ask the USDOE for “maximum flexibility in accommodating the current circumstances” given statewide school closures tied to the coronavirus outbreak.

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Ohio’s normal state standardized testing window was scheduled to open Monday, March 23, but ODE had already announced a delay because of school closures.

Ohio Department of Education representatives did not respond to questions Friday about the impact of the federal decision. Ohio’s own laws also include testing requirements, so some form of state law or edict would be required in order to cancel testing.

Friday’s statement from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said students impacted by pandemic-related school closures can bypass standardized testing this school year, “upon a proper request” from any state affected.

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“Students need to be focused on staying healthy and continuing to learn. Teachers need to be able to focus on remote learning and other adaptations,” DeVos said in a statement Friday. “Neither students nor teachers need to be focused on high-stakes tests during this difficult time.”

U.S. Department of Education officials said they “dramatically streamlined” the waiver application process to make it as simple as possible for state education leaders.

The federal announcement would also waive requirements for the annual state report card, which is largely based on state test results.

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“Since student performance, as measured by assessments, is required to be used in statewide accountability systems, any state that receives a one-year waiver may also receive a waiver from the requirement that this testing data be used in the statewide accountability system due to the national emergency,” the USDOE announcement said.