Feds deny waivers on exams

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The New York State United Teachers Union (NYSUT) is firmly objecting to the U.S. Department of Education announcement that it will not provide blanket waivers which would have enabled states to not administer standardized achievement tests to students this year.

In a statement Tuesday, NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said “in a year that has been anything but standard, mandating that students take standardized tests just doesn’t make sense.”

Commenting “standardized tests are not the best way to measure a child’s development, and they are especially unreliable right now,” Pallotta said “we need to ensure that our students who have been hit hardest during the pandemic receive the support they need. Sizing up students with inequitable and stressful exams is not the solution.”

The state Education Department announced last week it had submitted two federal waiver requests for state assessment and accountability requirements due to impacts from COVID-19. One request involved a waiver on state testing requirements at elementary, middle and high school levels, including for English Language Arts, math and science among the categories.

However, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) on Monday informed states they will not be allowed to cancel federally mandated standardized exams this school year despite the pandemic, though they will be offered significant flexibility in how they give those tests and how they’re used, said edweek.org online.

In response, state Education Department spokesperson Emily DeSantis said “while we are disappointed by this decision, we are examining all possible options.”

USDE “made the right call in affirming that no child should be made to come to school to take a state assessment,” said DeSantis. Also, “USDE agreed to uncouple state assessments from accountability measures so no school will be affected by the results of state assessments and the results will solely be used as a measure of student learning.”

Given the circumstances, DeSantis added, the state Education Department will “propose a series of regulatory amendments at the March Board of Regents meeting so Regents exams would not be required to meet graduation requirements and to cancel any Regents exam that is not required by USDE to be held.”

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