Coronavirus (COVID-19): Dept. of Education Allows States to Waive Standardized Tests – Impact on Massachusetts Schools

On March 20, 2020, Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, announced that states can bypass standardized testing for the 2019-2020 school year due to COVID-19. States that are unable to assess their students due to COVID-19 are invited to submit a waiver to the United States Department of Education through their Chief School Officer or authorized delegate. A template of the waiver form can be found here.

Any state that seeks and receives this one-year waiver may also receive a waiver from the requirement that the testing data from statewide assessments be used in the statewide accountability system. States also will not be required to make annual accountability determinations, to identify schools for support and improvement, to provide state data and local report cards for assessment and accountability information.

For Massachusetts schools, this announcement could mean that they will not be required to administer the MCAS if the Commissioner of Education receives authorization from the Massachusetts Legislature to file a waiver request with the United States Department of Education. Under Massachusetts law, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (“DESE”) cannot unilaterally waive testing requirements. As of this alert, no such legislative action has been taken.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (“DESE”) has not published any updated guidance since Secretary DeVos’ announcement.  Therefore, as it stands today, the MCAS schedule remains unchanged.  However, DESE has reserved its right to extend or move the assessment windows.

The factors impacting the administration of MCAS tests are rapidly changing, and we anticipate that updated guidance will be provided by DESE in the near future.

Secretary DeVos’ announcement does not impact the administration of the SATs.  The College Board, which administers the SAT tests, previously canceled the nationwide May administration of the test, as well as the March 28, 2020 administration of the make-up test related to the March 14, 2020 administration.  However, the June 6, 2020 administration of the SAT has not yet been canceled. College Board anticipates providing future SAT testing opportunities as soon as possible.

For more information

If you have questions about compliance in Massachusetts or Rhode Island, please contact Greg Vanden-Eykel, Rita E. Nerney, or Matthew R. Plain at 888.273.9903. For New York schools, please reach out to our New York office at 212.792.6246 or to Paul O’NeillJaime Fernand, or Lisa Holtzmuller.

Barton Gilman provides the full scope of legal services to education clients – including, private schools, traditional and non-traditional public schools, charter schools, charter management organizations, education advocacy organizations and other education-related organizations – throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York. For more information, please click here.