Testing disruption could have short- and long-term impacts

In recent years, states and districts have worked to reduce the number of tests students take — but this wasn’t what they had in mind.

As more schools close for the next few weeks due to the spread of coronavirus, spring testing is one part of this school year likely to be lost.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said in his press conference Thursday that the three-week closure might mean mandated state tests won’t occur this year. And in Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee suggested the same during a press conference last week. 

“State testing is very likely to be suspended completely statewide,” Inslee said. “There is no meaningful way to produce those assessments with the kind of student absences we expect from this closure and the subsequent closures that are likely.”

The governor added he was in contact with both ACT and The College Board, which administers the SAT, regarding continuing opportunities for juniors to take their exams since many students need the results for college applications. 

ACT announced Monday it has moved the April 4 test date to June 13, and that it would contact students with information about next steps.

“ACT is committed to making every effort to help those students impacted by this test date change, particularly those high school seniors who are facing deadlines for fall 2020 college admission,” ACT CEO Marten Roorda said in a statement.

And if students registered for the March 14 SAT were not able to take it, they can also register for the May and June administrations. 

U.S. Department of Education officials also said last week because of this unique situation, the department “would consider a targeted one-year waiver of the assessment requirements for those schools impacted by the extraordinary circumstances.”

The fact sheet added that states in which schools are closed for an extended period of time “may also want to consider whether it is possible to adjust or extend the testing window to accommodate as many students as possible, including students in schools that were closed for some period.” 

‘Missing elements’

Assessment disruption has both short and long-term impacts, said Chris Domaleski, associate director of the Center for Assessment in Dover, New Hampshire. 

“There will be missing elements that will impact testing and accountability systems,” he told Education Dive.

If schools that are closing do reopen in April and tests are administered during the normal window, the “trustworthiness of the results” could be compromised and affected by the change in procedures and questions over whether students had an “adequate opportunity to learn,” he added.

Most states, Domaleski said, would hold schools harmless in accountability systems, meaning the designation or rating from last year would apply and no “cumulative impacts” would advance.   

But down the road, the impacts of one lost year of testing “are likely to be substantial,” he said, noting multiple years of testing data are needed for accountability systems based on growth models — which show progress over time — and that some states use “multiyear averaging.”

Extending the testing window

A few state leaders have discussed the potential for extending the testing window to later in the school year.

Missouri, where Kansas City Public Schools have closed for an extended spring break, is one state considering that option, according to a Friday memo from Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven to school administrators.

“Missouri’s testing window is currently open through May 22,” the memo says. “In accordance with the guidance, [the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s] contingency plans include potentially adjusting or extending the testing window, should circumstances call for such action.”

And in Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey held a phone briefing with over 400 district, charter and private school administrators to answer their questions.

“We have been working with our testing vendors if necessary to extend testing windows and we will also continue to monitor if a testing waiver will be needed from the U.S. Department of Education,” he said. 

In Maryland, one of the states to close all schools for at least a week, spokeswoman Samantha Foley said, “I expect we will be putting out more information in the coming days.”

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