As the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to wreak havoc across the globe, virtually every school district in the United States has been forced to either close entirely or continue educating via remote or distance learning. Since many schools did not have a prior distance learning plan in place, however, it’s been a mad scramble for educators throughout the country to establish one. And with a newly created distance learning system in place for the foreseeable future (if not the remainder of the school year), many questions arise, including:
- “What about school attendance requirements?”
- “How will my kids be evaluated?”
- “Is there still state-required testing?”
All valid questions, some of which are being addressed at the national level by the U.S. Department of Education, others that are being handled at a state level. Nationally speaking, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced on March 20 that, due to school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, any state can bypass standardized testing for the 2019-20 school year by filing a waiver request with the U.S. Department of Education. The decision makes sense on multiple levels:
- For the health and safety of students, teachers, and staff, schools should remain closed.
- With the current state of affairs across the country and beyond, children simply won’t be completely focused on these tests, which will lead to unfair evaluations.
- Teachers need to focus on implementing and monitoring new distance learning plans.
At the moment, 46 of the 50 states, including Washington, D.C., have been granted initial approval of the one-year standardized testing waiver. Three more are seeking approval, and one state has delayed testing. It seems like a good bet that all states will be granted waiver approval and have federal standardized testing suspended for the remainder of the school year.
Along with the waiver of federal testing, many states are contemplating–or enacting–bills that will waive the minimum requirement of school days for the 2019-20 academic year. So far, numerous states have announced that all schools will be closed for the remainder of the academic year. Other states will probably follow suit in the coming days and weeks.
The issue with closing schools, for many states, boils down to funding; state law requires a minimum number of instructional days or hours during a school year, and if states fail to meet those requirements, their full amount of state aid could be in jeopardy. Because of the unique circumstances we’re all facing right now, however, some states are waiving those minimum requirements in the name of public safety.
Currently, 29 states (including D.C.) have a 180-day minimum, six states have minimum requirements that fall somewhere below 180 days, and three states require more than 180 days of instruction. The remaining states decide at a state or district level, or don’t have any requirements at all. Among the schools that have already waived or adjusted the 180-day minimum requirement are the seven mentioned above that are closed for the remainder of the school year, plus California, Maine, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Tennessee, Iowa, Ohio, Washington, Louisiana, and Mississippi, with more sure to follow.
It’s not very often that entire states (or countries, for that matter) go so far as to reduce an academic year by weeks or months and waive federally mandated standardized testing. But you know what they say about desperate times. We’re living in a world unlike any we’ve ever seen or experienced, so conventional wisdom and some long-standing rules get tossed out the window in order for society to hopefully regain some sense of normalcy sooner rather than later.
Disregarding the standard length of a school year and doing away with standardized testing might seem drastic, but it’s going to be months before the COVID-19 pandemic is reasonably under control. While remote learning in public and private schools is a feasible long-term solution at some point in the (presumably) near future, the country’s education system just isn’t prepared to handle that full-time at this particular moment. It will take some time to iron out all the wrinkles, so it’s logical to take whatever measures are necessary to help ensure the country’s safety in the meantime.
Homeschooling is obviously an amazing education solution at any time…not just during a worldwide crisis. And while it may take some time for public and private schools to work out the details for their own home learning system, an accredited homeschool academy like Bridgeway already has it down to a science. If you’ve been homeschooling with us, thank you for being a part of our family! If you’re new to homeschooling or considering it as a long-term option even when schools reopen, Bridgeway is here for you and ready to work with you to create an amazing, customized learning experience for your child. Call us today at (800) 863-1474.