State Superintendent, Governor seek testing waiver

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Categories: Coronavirus

State School Superintendent and Gov. Doug Burgum have collaborated on a request to the U.S. Department of Education to waive all federally mandated student assessments for the 2019-20 school year.

North Dakota’s K-12 public schools have been closed since March 16 to on-site student instruction, and the governor has ordered them to remain shut until further notice. In place of classroom instruction, schools have been directed to submit plans to offer distance learning to their students. Distance learning in all schools must begin by April 1, and some North Dakota schools are already offering it.

The Department of Public Instruction has cancelled this year’s North Dakota State Assessments in mathematics, English/language arts and science, as well as local opportunities to make up the ACT college entrance exam if the initial March 3 ACT test date was missed.

The NDDPI pays the test expense for high school juniors, and it will be offering vouchers to students who wish to take the ACT during the national testing dates of June 13, 2020, or July 18, 2020. Baesler said most North Dakota juniors took the ACT on March 3, when it was first offered.

“We realize there are drawbacks to asking for these assessment waivers. We understand that losing a year’s worth of information about the progress of our students is not ideal,” Baesler said. “But we also believe that pressing ahead with these assessments would be disruptive, and at the end of the day, we would not be getting reliable information.

“By waiving state testing requirements, teachers and administrators will be able to focus on the pressing and important needs of students and families,” Baesler said.

School districts are developing age-appropriate distance learning plans, in accordance with NDDPI guidance and the governor’s executive order, which was issued Sunday. Districts are asked to submit their plans by Friday, March 27, and to begin instruction by April 1.

The North Dakota State Assessments and, for many schools, the ACT are used to provide “accountability measurements.” Those exams provide school administrators and policymakers information about how well a school is performing.

Baesler said this year’s lengthy, statewide school closings were ordered before the North Dakota State Assessments were to be given. The science assessment is administered in grades four, eight and 10, while the mathematics and English/language arts assessments are given in grades three through eight and grade 10.

Forty-three school districts, which teach 62 percent of North Dakota’s juniors, use the ACT test as an accountability measurement instead of the North Dakota State Assessment. State law already requires North Dakota juniors to sit for the ACT. Using the ACT, instead of the North Dakota State Assessment, as an accountability measurement means North Dakota high school students have to take one less state standardized test.

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