The Virginia Department of Education is considering waiving statewide Standards of Learning testing for students across the state.
VDOE announced Tuesday it is considering how to create “maximum flexibility” for student testing during the coronoavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, according to a news release from the department.
The potential changes come after Gov. Ralph Northam last week ordered all public schools to close for a period of two weeks. The order came as eighth graders and high school students across the state were in the middle of taking SOL tests.
VDOE had already extended windows for students to take the SOL tests but James Lane, superintendent of public instruction, said the department is considering taking further action.
“It is clear that we now have to take additional steps to ensure that schools and students—especially seniors completing their graduation requirements— are not adversely impacted by circumstances beyond their control,” he said.
Lane said the flexibility in testing is necessary because of new information about the potential duration of the pandemic. In order to extend the waivers, the state needs relief from the annual testing requirements under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.
The act requires testing for students in third through eighth grade in the subjects of reading and math each year and at least once in high school. Federal law also requires states to administer science tests at least once at each level of education.
The U.S. Department of Education said last week it would consider issuing waivers for individual schools impacted by the virus but Lane said Virginia is beyond that point, adding VDOE is asking federal partners to consider a process that would grant statewide relief for school districts.
While VDOE hasn’t announced its plan to change the requirements, Daniel Gecker, president of the Virginia Board of Education, said the state board will continue to review current accreditation regulations and other state testing requirements.
“These are extraordinary times and it would not be fair to our students, teachers, principals and other educators to have the accreditation ratings of their schools suffer next year because of the coronavirus pandemic,” Gecker said in the news release.
Eventually, the board will identify how to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on school accreditation ratings.
In the meantime, Lane has VDOE staff reviewing graduation state laws and regulations in relation to graduation requirements to determine how seniors who were set to graduate in the spring can still receive their diplomas.
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