03/09/2020 -- East Point, Georgia -- A Fulton County Public Schools employee (left) handles a bottle of commercial disinfectant in the parking lot at Woodland Middle School in East Point, Monday, March 9, 2020. The Fulton County School system has decided to close schools on Tuesday after a teacher tested positive with the coronavirus. The teacher was at Woodland Middle school on Friday. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com

Coronavirus: Feds invite canceling high-stakes tests; Georgia seeks permission

Georgia is “immediately” asking for permission to cut mandatory school tests this year now that the U.S. Department of Education is inviting states to apply for waivers.

“Educators, parents, and students can expect that no state testing – to include Georgia Milestones, GAA 2.0, and GKIDS – will be administered in Georgia this year,” says a statement from the Georgia Department of Education Friday.

The agency’s elected leader, State School Superintendent Richard Woods, indicated earlier this week that he would seek waivers after he announced Monday that he was indefinitely suspending the testing that was to start in coming weeks.

The action comes as a relief for teachers, who feared being penalized for lower test scores resulting from the disruptions caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“It has been become more and more clear that there is not a realistic path to administer state tests this year, and Georgia and other states have urged the federal government to make waivers available,” Woods’ agency said, adding that people should be focused on “learning, growing, and weathering this storm” rather than preparing for tests.


>>THE IN-DEPTH STORY: Georgia Milestones, other state school tests suspended

>>CORONAVIRUS: All the stories in one place


The waiver request comes after the U.S. Department of Education invited states to apply Friday.

The federal agency said it would grant a waiver “to any state that is unable to assess its students” due to the national emergency in response to the virus. School buildings across the country have closed and students are studying at home.

A statement from the federal agency quotes Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as saying students should be focused on their health and learning while teachers adapt to remote teaching.

It is not a time to focus on high-stakes tests, DeVos said. “Students are simply too unlikely to be able to perform their best in this environment.”

At a state school board meeting next week, Woods will request other changes, such as a suspension of the requirement that a fifth of high school students’ course grades be derived from the Milestones tests.

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