HARRISBURG, PA – Acting Education Secretary Noe Ortega announced recently that the department has submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) confirming that Pennsylvania will allow public schools the option to postpone federally-required academic achievement and English learner proficiency tests until the fall.
“Since the start of this pandemic, our work has been centered on protecting the health and safety of students, educators, and school staff across the state,” said Acting Secretary of Education Noe Ortega. “Our decision to extend the testing window continues to prioritize their health and safety and creates needed flexibilities for our unique school communities.”
Secretary Ortega said that, recognizing the challenges, the COVID-19 global pandemic is creating for schools, PDE is allowing local education agencies (LEAs) to administer assessments either in the spring or in the fall. This decision allows Pennsylvania to comply with federal law, ensures that assessment administration does not systematically disadvantage historically underserved student groups, and maintains a focus on meeting students’ emotional and social needs as education recovery continues. This approach provides districts flexibility in administering assessments, while ensuring Pennsylvania has needed data to identify areas of learning loss, opportunities for learning acceleration, and better understand the inequitable impact of the pandemic on learners, including low-income students, students of color, English learners, and students with disabilities.
Earlier this week, the USDE released new guidance on assessment administration for the spring of 2021. The guidance includes an extension of the testing window which allows for the movement of assessments to the summer or fall, the option of remote assessments when possible, and a reduction of the state assessments to make testing more feasible given the current instructional models. Currently, there is no blanket federal waiver available for school assessments for the 2020-2021 school year. Pennsylvania will not use any assessment results that derive from a pandemic year for any high-stakes purpose, including school improvement designations.
Secretary Ortega stated that, from the earliest days of the global pandemic, Pennsylvania has remained committed to documenting the educational, emotional, and other shifts experienced by our students, educators, and families. Thanks to support from the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) partnered with our Regional Education Lab to gather rigorous research on the possible effects of large-scale, long-term virtual learning; developed a comprehensive agenda for understanding Pennsylvania’s educational inequities in the time of COVID-19; and implemented a statewide survey to gather data on local assessment systems that can provide vital information following the cancellation of statewide assessments during the 2019-20 school year.
For more information about Pennsylvania’s education policies and programs please visit the Department of Education’s website.
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