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SACRAMENTO February 24, 2021 – The State Board of Education voted today to seek relief from certain federal testing, accountability, and reporting requirements and directed staff to explore other options for assessing student learning given the many challenges facing schools, educators, families, and students this year.

The Board’s action is in response to federal guidance released Monday that allows states to ask for latitude to account for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on schools. Unlike last year, the U.S. Department of Education is not inviting states to apply for blanket waivers that would allow states to opt–out of annual testing altogether, citing the role testing data plays in supporting students.

“We understand that this is an emotional issue and that these are difficult circumstances with less than perfect choices,” said State Board President Linda Darling-Hammond. “Supporting schools in caring for students and staff and supporting learning must be our most important priorities. We clearly need to value time for learning and carefully prioritize how we allocate time for assessments so that results can be useful and well-used.”

Board Vice President Ilene Straus noted: “At this point, with more and more schools just starting to bring students back to the classroom for in-person instruction, there are complex issues demanding educator and student time, ranging from managing new routines required by mitigation strategies to supporting students who are experiencing trauma in their lives to seeking to understand and address learning gaps.”

If granted, California’s federal flexibility request would:

  • Decouple state assessments from federal accountability requirements, as applicable. Instead, any data collected would be used to inform local educators, parents, and the public and align resources to student supports.
  • Waive federal penalties for student testing participation rates of less than 95 percent on the state’s Smarter Balanced English language arts and math assessments.
  • Extend the window by which schools must complete test administration to July 30 for both the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) and the English Language Assessments for California (ELPAC), which measures English learners’ progress toward language proficiency, as applicable.
  • Waive administration of the state’s science test altogether for 2021.

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, all states that receive federal funds for low-income students and English learners must assess annual learning progress in math, language arts, science, and English learner language proficiency, as applicable.

At its November meeting, the State Board voted to approve shortened blueprints of the Smarter Balanced assessments in English language arts and math in order to administer shorter tests in these subjects during the 2020–21 school year. The Board also requested that CDE staff make available to interested districts the Smarter Balanced Consortium’s offer to allow performance tasks to be completed in the classroom to shorten testing time further.

With about 80 percent of the state’s students still engaged in distance learning, board members emphasized—as the federal guidance states—that students should not be brought back to in-person instruction solely for the purpose of standardized testing.

The State Board today also directed staff to “develop a waiver proposal to bring back to the Board that focuses on a plan for assessments that provide data to parents, educators, and the public which monitors the progress of students in ELA/math and that will propose a means for uniform reporting of that data in both aggregated and disaggregated forms.”

The California Department of Education is a state agency led by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. For more information, please visit the California Department of Education’s website. You may also follow Superintendent Thurmond on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.