Waivers offer relief for states impacted by COVID-19

March 25, 2020 by educatetwc

As you know, Educate the Whole Child has often advocated for a reduction in mandatory testing. The coronavirus, or COVID-19, seems to have brought about a significant reduction in testing, with many states receiving “waivers” that allow suspension of the mandatory tests that are a component of the ESSA requirements (Every Student Succeeds Act).

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a statement, “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.” Of course, we question whether they could perform at their best in any such pressured setting.

Which states will get waivers? Surely New York, Washington and California – but this deserves research over time. If you ask your State Agency, remember that circumstances can change day by day. One deciding factor seems to be if schools are closed in a given state and there are now over forty states with closures, including Ohio. We would assume that testing requires access to students and, thus, open schools. On the other hand, we can be sure that if your state has not asked for a waiver, it will not get one.

We are reporting on this from information from Vermont, and we have learned that the waiver means Vermont won’t need to administer its regular statewide tests this spring. That includes the Smarter Balanced Assessments, or SBACs, in math and English, the Next Generation Science Standards Assessment, the Vermont Physical Education Assessment, and the Vermont Alternate Assessments. The actual testing in your own state may vary. In Vermont, the turnaround time for the waiver from the U.S. Department of Education was twenty-four hours.

Of course, none of this news tells us anything at all about school closures and family responses, which must be very challenging – to say the least. Nor does it help to address the needs of students on IEPs, 504 plans or any other specific areas of support, who also may be underserved amid school shut-downs of any sort.