Some state lawmakers want Oklahoma to preemptively seek federal permission to skip standardized testing requirements for the upcoming academic year, but State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister says that would be premature.
The request for a waiver application came in a letter sent Wednesday to Hofmeister by state Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa, on behalf of all six members of the House Democratic Caucus Policy Working Group.
Waldron and four other members are former public school educators.
“We all recognize that COVID has brought disruption to our way of life, and that includes our public education system. As we continue to navigate this new reality and figure out how best to proceed, the best thing for our students is to focus on the culture of our schools not testing outcomes,” wrote Waldron. “Georgia was one of the first states to realize this, and we want to be next.”
In response to the Tulsa World, Hofmeister said in a written statement she thinks such a move is not yet warranted.
“We do not yet know what next school year will look like, and the U.S. Department of Education has made it clear that it is far too early to consider waivers. While Georgia has stated its intent to pursue a waiver, it has not yet done so.”
Last week, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and State Superintendent Richard Woods announced their state would be the first to seek a federal waiver for the second year in a row because of learning disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“In anticipation of a return to in-person instruction this fall, we believe schools’ focus should be on remediation, growth, and the safety of students,” read their joint, written statement to the press. “Every dollar spent on high-stakes testing would be a dollar taken away from the classroom.”
Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, states are required to test students annually for school accountability purposes. Students must be tested once a year in reading and math in grades 3-8, as well as once during high school. And students must each be tested in science once in elementary school, once in middle school and once in high school.
All states received a one-year waiver from the U.S. Department of Education for their 2019-20 tests this spring, as schools were shuttered upon the arrival of COVID-19.
State Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa, a former public school educator, said she believes schools need to focus on recovering from the pandemic’s effects.
“Our teachers have a monumental task this fall that they have already begun preparing for: determining how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted learning and developing the best plan to meet the unique needs these uncertain times will demand,” Provenzano said.