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State Board of Education seeking waivers to suspend student testing

The State Board of Education has agreed to ask state lawmakers to waive certain student tests and other accountability measures due to school closures.

Gov. Roy Cooper ordered public schools closed last month to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The coronavirus had claimed 86 lives in North Carolina. Schools are scheduled to reopen May 15 but could remain closed longer.

Lawmakers are expected to take up the requests when they return to Raleigh on April 28. A House Select Committee on COVID-19 studying education issues has already begun to discuss the requests.

The U.S. Department of Education has granted North Carolina and other states waivers to suspend federally mandated tests.

State Board of Education chairman Eric Davis

SBE Chairman Eric Davis said the waivers do not mean the state is lowering academic standards.

“I’d like to be clear that the waiver requests we’re about to discuss do not reflect any change in the board’s support of high academic standards, effective assessments to inform instruction or an accountability system that continuously drives improved academic achievement for our students,” Davis said during a board meeting last week.

If approved by lawmakers, end-of-grade and end-of-course exams would be suspended for the current school year. The state would also table its controversial A-F grading scale for schools and districts. Some teachers would not receive bonuses linked to student performance.

The SBE also wants lawmakers to waive K-3 reading assessments required under the state’s Read to Achieve law.

Additional waivers would:

  • Give beginning and early-career teachers additional time to meet state licensing requirements. Teachers with initial licenses set to expire June 30 would be extended for one year until they pass required tests by June 30, 2021.
  • New teaching graduates will be able to begin teaching without having passed the required exams, although education preparation programs have the option to recommend against licensure for candidates. And with approval by the legislature, the 16-week requirement for student teaching would be suspended for those students who had started that work before March 16.
  • Allow new teaching graduates to begin teaching without having passed the required exams, although education preparation programs have the option to recommend against licensure for candidates. And with approval by the legislature, the 16-week requirement for student teaching would be suspended for those students who started work before March 16.
  • Hold districts harmless from possible reductions in transportation funding for 2020-21 school year because of unexpected impacts from the COVID-19 closure. The board directed the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to develop a funding formula so that at a minimum, school districts will not face any reduction in their transportation allotment compared to 2019-2020 levels.

A complete list of waivers approved by the board can be found here.

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State Board of Education seeking waivers to suspend student testing