The Oregon Department of Education filed a request Friday to waive state tests this year. Oregon public schools administer the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium exams in English Language Arts and Math, for students in grades three through eight, as well as to 11th graders. The mandatory tests have been controversial in the state, with many students opting not to take them.
Because of extended school closures due to concern for the coronavirus, Oregon Department of Education director Colt Gill said it would be impossible to administer assessments or comply with reporting requirements.
If approved, the waiver would free Oregon schools from testing students this spring, when assessments were scheduled to be administered.
The U-S Department of Education announced Friday it would grant a waiver to any state unable to test students because of school closures.
“Students are simply too unlikely to be able to perform their best in this environment,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a statement announcing the agency’s plan. “Our actions today provide turnkey flexibilities for state and local leaders to focus on the immediate needs of their students and educators without worrying about federal repercussions.”
The superintendent of Oregon's largest school district, Portland Public Schools, tweeted Friday afternoon suggesting Oregon apply for the waiver.
“Our priority has to remain on the health & safety of our students and community at this time,” PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero wrote.
Test results determine whether a school receives targeted support from the state. By requesting the waiver, ODE agreed that schools receiving support this year will continue to receive it next year.
The state will receive public comment on the waiver request on its website.
Governor Kate Brown’s order to close schools until April 28 has made the end of the school year more complicated for schools and the state.
With spring break starting Monday, school districts are taking the time to build out online programming for students to use during the extended closure.
ODE is also working with the state on temporary rules around school meals, transportation, instructional time, credit attainment and diploma requirements.
“The ODE will also…work with state board of education to engage in any temporary rule making necessary to facilitate the directives of this order and the ability of public schools to respond to ongoing emergencies,” Gill said during a meeting Thursday of Oregon's State Board of Education.
ODE has already received several federal waivers related to food service in schools. Waivers have allowed districts to serve meals without time restrictions and allow students to receive lunch in a “Grab and Go” style rather than in a cafeteria.
The agency is still seeking waivers to allow reimbursement for the direct delivery of meals to homes and other locations when a child is not present.