One State's Request to Pause Standardized Testing for Students

The request must be approved by the U.S. Department of Education, which this spring waived testing requirements for all states during the current school year because of mass closures related to the pandemic.

The request must be approved by the U.S. Department of Education, which this spring waived testing requirements for all states during the current school year because of mass closures related to the pandemic. Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said this week he would request a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education for standardized testing in the coming school year, citing disruptions and budget shortfalls from the coronavirus pandemic.

Georgia will seek a federal waiver to suspend standardized testing in the next school year, a move Gov. Brian Kemp said is necessary due to budgetary constraints related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Given the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic and the resulting state budget reductions, it would be counterproductive to continue with high-stakes testing for the 2020-2021 school year,” Kemp and State School Superintendent Richard Woods said in a joint statement. “In anticipation of a return to in-person instruction this fall, we believe schools’ focus should be on remediation, growth, and the safety of students. Every dollar spent on high-stakes testing would be a dollar taken away from the classroom.”

The announcement, issued Thursday, makes Georgia the first state to seek a testing waiver for the upcoming school year, though more are likely to follow as education officials continue to make decisions about whether students will return for in-person learning this fall. States across the country are rolling out their general plans for next year, with many officials suggesting there could be a combination of both returning to classrooms and continued remote learning. But exactly what school will look like this fall is largely still unclear.

Kemp’s request must be approved by the U.S. Department of Education, which already waived federally mandated standardized testing for all states for the 2019-2020 school year after schools closed to prevent the spread of Covid-19, forcing teachers and students to revert to digital learning. 

Under current federal policy, states must administer annual tests in reading and math to every student in grades 3-8. Students must also be tested in science three times—once each in elementary school, middle school and high school.

Kemp has long been a proponent of cutting the number of standardized exams, saying in February that Georgia’s testing requirements—particularly for high school students, who currently take eight subject exams each year—are excessive.

“It’s clear Georgia simply tests too much,” he said in February at a press conference. “On test days, it’s making students physically sick because they’re worried they won’t do well. That is simply unacceptable in our state.”

The state Senate this year unanimously passed a bill cutting four of those eight exams, along with another test for middle schoolers. The legislature adjourned due to coronavirus before the House could vote on the matter, but Kemp said this week he would continue to advocate for the legislation.

Kemp also said Georgia would suspend teacher evaluations in the coming school year. Those scores are based partly on how well students do on standardized tests.

“We are hopeful the federal government will recognize that the upcoming school year will not be ‘business as usual’ and will accept our request for a standardized testing waiver,” Kemp and Woods said.

The state’s request comes as a growing number of colleges and universities are temporarily doing away with standardized testing requirements for applicants after Covid-19 disrupted nationwide testing dates for the SAT and the ACT. For example, rising high school seniors without a score for either test can apply to all public universities in California and most of the Ivy League, including Yale, Columbia, Cornell and Harvard.

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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