State seeks waiver suspending annual assessment tests

The state Department of Education is seeking a federal waiver to suspend all state-mandated student assessments for all grades and subjects, as well as district and school accountability measures, for this school year.

According to state Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona, state educators are working with The College Board to determine administration of the SAT since the test plays an important role in high school students’ college acceptance, placement and entrance.

“This is not a decision I make lightly,” said Cardona, “however, this is an unprecedented time for public education.

“We are committed to supporting our students, teachers, leaders, and families,” added Cardona, “and ensuring they feel a sense of normalcy and stability if and when they return to the school building this year.”

Cardona said the coronavirus pandemic has already “taken an emotional toll on our school communities with significant disruptions to classroom learning that will affect Connecticut’s ability to administer assessments and produce valid results.”

When students and educators return to school, they will be coming back from an extended absence, said Cardona, so districts should prioritize re-acclimating students, addressing their social-emotional needs, and providing high quality learning opportunities that prepare them for the following year.

“I am in full support of the state seeking a federal waiver for many of the accountability indicators of ESSA,” said interim schools Superintendent Beth Smith. “For example, Distance Learning presents challenges for students to take state assessments and chronic absenteeism cannot be measured under the current conditions.”

Gov. Ned Lamont and Cardona determined it is not feasible for the state Department of Education to administer its assessments because of COVID-19, and statewide school closures coinciding with Connecticut’s upcoming SAT School Day testing window.

While schools are currently closed until March 30, federal guidance suggests closures will likely extend beyond that time. The state Department of Education has asked school districts to begin providing opportunities for continuity of education, as well as meeting other basic needs, for all students to the greatest extent possible and consistent with federal and state guidance.