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No answer yet on state testing in New Jersey this spring
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No answer yet on state testing in New Jersey this spring

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Teacher Sheila McCloy and students at Dennis Township Primary School conduct a Lunar New Year dragon parade.

As spring nears, the fate of statewide standardized testing in New Jersey remains in limbo.

On Feb. 22, the U.S. Department of Education provided guidance to states on how to administer the federally required tests with increased flexibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic and allowed states to request a waiver, which New Jersey said it would do.

The state Department of Education is requesting a one-year waiver of the requirements to administer the New Jersey Student Learning Assessment in English Language Arts, Mathematics and Science; Dynamic Learning Maps; and ACCESS for ELLs. The request also seeks a one-year waiver of all related accountability and reporting requirements.

The state’s waiver request has the backing of some legislators and the state’s largest educational union, the New Jersey Education Association.

“We believe that the standardized testing waiver application outlined last week by the Murphy administration aligns with the updated guidance issued by the USDOE,” NJEA officers said in a statement.

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The federal guidance, which came just a few days after the New Jersey Department of Education sent out a memo to school officials announcing it would apply for a federal testing waiver, seemed to indicate the Biden administration’s education department wanted states to still administer testing.

The guidance suggested states could delay tests until summer or fall, shorten them or administer them remotely where possible.

“In addition to encouraging flexibility around assessments, (USDOE) is allowing states to request a waiver for the Every Student Succeeds Act’s accountability and school identification requirements. This flexibility will explicitly include waiving the accountability provisions relating to having a 95% test participation rate,” a news release from the USDOE announcing the guidance reads.

The federal testing mandate falls under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal education law that replaced No Child Left Behind under President Barack Obama.

Last spring, New Jersey applied for and received a waiver from the USDOE under the Trump administration canceling the standardized tests due to the pandemic after all schools in the state were ordered to transition to virtual learning.

New Jersey announced earlier this year a delay in the mandatory testing until April while assessing its options for spring testing. In addition, the state announced plans recently to collect midyear local testing data to assess student learning during a highly unusual school year when the majority of the state’s school districts offered only remote or hybrid learning options.

NJEA said it expected the NJDOE to submit a “thorough, well-formulated waiver request that protects our students from the harm that would be caused by attempting to administer New Jersey’s existing standardized tests this spring.”

Public comment on New Jersey’s waiver request is open through 5 p.m. Friday and can be submitted at essa@doe.nj.gov.

Contact Claire Lowe:

609-272-7251

clowe@pressofac.com

Twitter @clairelowe

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