States will need to administer annual standardized achievement exams to students in 2021, but they can modify or delay the tests, the U.S. Department of Education said Monday.
Under federal law, states must administer annual exams in key subjects including reading and math to students in third through eighth grade and once in high school. The results of those exams can be used to judge schools, and sometimes also teachers, on their performance, and they can also trigger improvement efforts.
The requirement to administer state exams was waived by former education secretary Betsy DeVos in spring 2020, when most U.S. schools shut down as a result of COVID-19.
The new guidance from the Biden administration comes before its secretary of education nominee, Miguel Cardona, has been confirmed. During his confirmation hearing in early February, Cardona didn’t say whether the federally required exams should be waived again this year. He said it was important to assess student progress, but that schools probably shouldn’t bring students back in-person just to administer an exam.
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States can decide whether to shorten the annual exams, administer them remotely, or delay giving them until summer or fall, the new guidance says. Also, schools won’t be held accountable for the results of how students perform.
Usually, state achievement tests are administered to students in the spring.
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