VDOE seeks federal SOL testing waiver during coronavirus crisis

Virginia News

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Amid statewide school closures due to the threat of coronavirus, the Virginia Department of Education has requested a federal waiver for students slated to take the Virginia Standards of Learning tests this spring.

On March 13, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued an order to close the Commonwealth’s schools for two weeks. The order came as people in Virginia and across the United States battle the growing threat of COVID-19 infection.

VDOE is preparing for a “significantly longer shutdown” by seeking a federal waiver from SOL testing under the Every Student Succeeds Act. The ESSA requires specific testing in math, reading, and science at different points in a child’s education, according to a VDOE news release.

Virginia’s 8th grade and high school students were taking SOL writing tests when Northam announced that schools would be closed due to COVID-19. In response, VDOE extended statewide windows for SOL testing, the release states.

The U.S. Department of Education announced it would consider issuing standardized testing waivers to individual schools that are impacted by coronavirus; however, Lane said that VDOE has requested “statewide relief” from standardized testing via a federal waiver for this school year’s SOLs.

“VDOE has advised school divisions of the flexibility they already have to delay Standards of Learning testing, but 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,” Lane wrote in a news release.

VDOE is also reviewing school accreditation regulations and state testing requirements to assess what steps can be taken to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on school accreditation ratings. The same review is being done for state graduation requirements to protect seniors who would have gotten a diploma had the pandemic not impacted their education, agency President Daniel Gecker wrote in a news release.

“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 wrote.


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