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Officials look ahead to standardized testing for students during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 6:13 PM, Nov 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-18 20:13:41-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The Education Interim Committee of the Utah Legislature listened to recommendations on Wednesday from State Board of Education representatives on what to do for next year when it comes to state assessment tests.

At the end of April, Governor Gary Herbert signed into law S.B. 3005 which waived certain public education assessment requirements for the 2019/2020 school year.

Now looking to the rest of the 2020-2021 school year, the question is what to do with assessments and standardized testing.

“There's going to be some students that participate in state assessment this coming year its reasonable to expect that and we should have an increased tolerance towards that” Darin Nielsen the Assistant State Superintendent of Student Learning told us in an interview just before the committee meeting.

Officials say state tests are still important because without them, it's difficult to assess how much COVID-19 has impacted students. The data also helps to hold students, teachers and schools accountable.

Since the tests were canceled last year there is no precedent for how to administer them fairly and efficiently during a pandemic.

“Many of us believe that this year the data is actually more important than ever to help us understand those impacts” Nielsen says.

In the report from the State Board of Education, they recommend, "Despite these risks, we believe there is an increased need for academic achievement and growth data to help parents, educators, administrators and policy makers understand and respond to the affects of COVID-19."

Also in the document titled “THIS IS NOT A TEST, THIS IS AN EMERGENCY: Special Considerations for Assessing and Advancing Equity in School-Year 2020-21” it says, “Waiting until January or February will be too late to adapt testing systems to best understand and act on opportunity gaps and learning progress. Plans should also account for various contingencies, particularly due to remote and hybrid schooling, and allow for adjustment as conditions change.”

During the meeting Wednesday it was stressed by Nielsen that because of factors including the validity, changes in student educational growth during the pandemic and potentially weaker test scores, tests could look different.

Nielsen summed up the issue by saying it is imperative to get data so the state “can we reallocate to make sure those students who were impacted in a negative way [from COVID-19] so we take steps to mitigate that.”