States have an annual federal mandate through the Every Student Succeeds Act to test most students in specific subjects to assess student performance, and the spring testing season — which can last weeks — is being disrupted across the country with millions of students in 45 states and the District of Columbia at home because their schools closed. Nearly 53 million students are affected, according to an Education Week tally.
Though school systems are broadly trying to move education online, many students do not have the technology or Internet service to access the work, and security issues would loom large in the online administration of a test with little preparation.
Education officials in states throughout the country had been pleading with the administration for relief from the federal mandates, and some states did not wait for the federal government to cancel the tests. At least 10 had already moved to cancel or postpone tests without federal approval.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Friday her department would grant testing waivers to any state that submits a proper request.
“Students need to be focused on staying healthy and continuing to learn,” she said. “Teachers need to be able to focus on remote learning and other adaptations. 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.”
She also said that because student performance, as measured by assessments, is required to be used in statewide accountability systems, states can ask for and receive a waiver from the requirement that this testing data be used for accountability purposes.