Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick and the Indiana Department of Education are calling for standardized tests to be canceled in response to the COVID-19 outbreak that is closing schools across the state. It’s not an easy call, but it’s the right one.
The department asked Friday for schools to be excused from state and federal requirements for standardized assessments for the 2019-20 school year. The requests go to Gov. Eric Holcomb and to the U.S. Department of Education.
The department also said it would postpone the third-grade reading exam IREAD-3, scheduled to start next week, and suspend 10th-grade ISTEP testing. ILEARN exams for grades 3-8 will be delayed if not canceled.
Under normal circumstances, I’d argue the assessments provide useful information for schools, parents and policymakers. But these aren’t normal times. Schools are closing for at least two or three weeks to help slow the spread of the new coronavirus. The disruption may be more serious than we realize.
“With the pressure our schools are already facing navigating the COVID-19 outbreak, the last thing our schools need is the undue burden of preparing and administering statewide assessments,” department spokesman Adam Baker said.
That’s even more the case, Baker said, with schools being “held harmless” for this year’s test results. Concerned about low proficiency rates on new tests, legislators decided the results shouldn’t be used to lower schools’ A-to-F grades. That makes the results less meaningful than usual.
The Indiana State Teachers Association weighed in to support the waiver request.
“When students return to their classrooms, they should be focused on making up valuable classroom time,” ISTA President Keith Gambill said in a statement. “Just as important, our teachers should be focused on what they do best, teaching.”
The U.S. Department of Education said this week that it would consider requests for waivers from testing requirements. Holcomb hasn’t addressed the testing question but said he would waive up to 20 days from Indiana’s 180-day school year requirement because of COVID-19.
With the school year likely to be shortened, schools shouldn’t be spending precious days on test prep and test administration. Let’s hope the governor and the feds agree.