The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), along with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), gave updates and new guidance after Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s March 21 announcement regarding COVID-19.
One of the bigger education-related announcements made last week is that state testing will be foregone.
According to DHSS, schools cannot resume classes before April 6. Schools will have the option to extend their closing beyond that date.
Schools are also encouraged to continue preparing and serving food as they have since the closures began last week.
DESE urged school districts to ensure they practice social distancing when staff members report to work. They ask for school leaders to evaluate “which duties being performed are critical” and “then explore how those tasks could be performed remotely or virtually.”
On Thursday, Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven announced the cancellation of all statewide assessments for the remainder of this school year. Vandeven made the announcement by video on DESE’s Facebook page.
“There is a time and a place for statewide required assessments and now is not the time,” said Vandeven. “Effective immediately, Missouri will be canceling statewide required assessments for this school year.”
These statewide assessments – called the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) – include grade-level, end-of-course (EOC) and alternate assessments. Grade-level testing consists of tests in third through eighth grades in English language arts and mathematics and science for grades five and eight. EOC tests are given for English I and II, Algebra I and II, Geometry, U.S. History, U.S. Government, Biology, and Personal Finance.
These assessments are designed to see if students in the state are making academic progress by meeting the grade-level expectations.
“DESE supports you as you continue to focus on the health and well-being of your students,” a statement on DESE’s assessment page of their website announced. “Find innovative ways to continue teaching and learning; and provide as much normalcy as possible for students, faculty and staff.”
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos followed up with the announcement that the department “will grant a waiver to any state that is unable to assess its students due to the ongoing national emergency, providing relief from federally-mandated testing requirements for this school year.”
She said, “Students need to be focused on staying healthy and continuing to learn. Teachers need to be able to focus on remote learning and other adaptations. Neither students nor teachers need to be focused on high-stakes tests during this difficult time. Students are simply too unlikely to be able to perform their best in this environment. 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.”
DeVos said she has spoken with many area education leaders recently and she was “inspired by their efforts to help their students continue to learn and grow. We're going to continue to provide every flexibility possible to help make that as simple as possible.”
Pam Clifton is a contributing writer for the Daily Journal.
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