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With state testing cancelled, schools are waiting for state guidance

With state testing cancelled, schools are waiting for state guidance

Washington has canceled its spring standard tests, leaving school officials waiting to hear what that means for graduation requirements.

And they’re disappointed that the lack of testing will deprive them of important school improvement information. The six to seven weeks of school left after state-mandated closure is scheduled to end on April 24 — if it is not extended — must be devoted to instruction to make up lost class time, said Longview Superintendent Dan Zorn.

“It makes perfect sense for us to not have a testing window,” Zorn said. “But it’s unfortunate that has to happen because that (test) information is very important to us.”

Zorn said districts use test results to determine if instruction is effective and identify students who need special attention.

“That’s a year where we’re not going to have access to that data, and it does put a hole in informing us about our kids’ progress and how we might be able to better improve that,” Zorn said.

The cancellation includes smarter balance assessments in English and math, Washington Access to Instruction and Measurement in English and math, the English Language Proficiency Assessment, the Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science and several more.

Those tests are typically taken in the late spring and are an “important tool in (districts’) toolboxes,” Zorn said.

Test results also are one of several graduation requirements. Zorn said the state has said districts may have be “be creative” in fulfilling those requirements.

“There will be grace involved in that as well,” Zorn said. “We’re looking for some future guidance from the state board of education.”

If school districts are able to open on Monday, April 27, OSPI’s website says, graduating seniors could choose to take an assessment to meet graduation pathway requirements or an assessment to earn a Seal of Biliteracy, which certifies that a student is proficient in two languages. It does not yet have information on what will happen if schools do not reopen this year.

OSPI plans to release more information on assessments and graduation requirements in the future, according to the website.

In the meantime, Zorn said he plans to meet with the principals of Longview’s high schools to discuss graduation requirements and credit retrieval.

“Some of the kids who were a little behind, how do we make sure we’re continuing our efforts to get them back on track to graduate?” Zorn said. “We’re trying to make sure we do all we can during this time to keep our kids on track.”

Kelso School District spokeswoman Michele Nerland said Kelso would wait for OSPI guidance before making any decisions.

College entrance testing is also taking a hit. Several early spring testing dates for the SAT and the ACT have been cancelled or rescheduled. According to the ACT website, the test scheduled for April 4 will now happen June 13.

And the College Board, which owns the SAT, announced it has canceled the May 2 exam and will refund money to students who already registered for it. It had previously allowed March 14 testing to continue, but allowed individual sites to cancel. Makeup exams for those exams were scheduled for March 28, but the College Board also canceled those exams.

However, the International Baccalaureate organization said on its website altering its May exam schedule would be very difficult, due to the work that goes into preparing and printing the exams. It did say that it was looking at different flexible options and would have a final answer by March 27.

It seems to be too soon to tell what effect the cancellations might have on students applying for college. The Washington State University website said the college is “evaluating our processes and deadlines” due to the pandemic.

“Please note that we will do everything we can so this unforeseen situation does not adversely impact our students, current and incoming,” the website said. “We are working diligently to address your concerns throughout this nationwide situation.”

And many colleges, including the University of Washington and Portland State University, have cancelled tours and informational sessions.

At Wednesday’s Rainier School District special meeting, held on Facebook Live, Superintendent Michael Carter said he knew SAT and ACT groups were working on “creative solutions.”

“We want to provide you the best education we can even though we can’t be in schools right now,” Carter said.

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