State department gearing up for full round of tests

The State Department of Education is gearing up for a full round of standardized tests as educators, families and students prepare for a school year fraught with uncertainty.

The SDE’s 2020-21 assessment calendar includes the Idaho Reading Indicator exam and the federally mandated Idaho Standards Achievement Test.

The calendar details testing dates and accompanies a federal official’s recent announcement that the U.S. Department of Education won’t likely allow states to bypass federally mandated tests this year, as it did in the spring.

Despite the coronavirus’ wide-ranging impacts on the upcoming school year, the feds won’t likely cancel testing requirements this year, assistant secretary Jim Blew said during an Education Writers Association conference Friday.

“Our instinct would not be to give those waivers,” Blew said. “There are so many benefits to testing, and it allows for some transparency about how schools are performing.”

SDE assessment and accountability director Kevin Whitman told EdNews Tuesday that the SDE is gearing up to help schools administer the tests — with added flexibility for students in remote-learning situations.

“Our focus has been working with test vendors for pursuing flexibility based on local variance,” Whitman said.

Possible measures include added testing dates in areas where more social distancing is needed. Testing from home is another possibility, Whitman said — with the exception of college-entrance exams.

SDE communications director Karlynn Laraway, who held Whitman’s role at the SDE until last month, stressed that the the state has time to work with educators to shape — or reshape — testing plans. Several tests won’t happen until springtime, she noted.

  • The testing window for the initial round of the IRI runs from Aug. 10 to Sept. 25. A second round of testing to measure student growth is scheduled from May 3 to May 28.
  • Students across the state will complete the English language arts, math and science portions of the ISAT from March 15 to May 14.
  • Idaho juniors can take the SAT on April 14, with a makeup date of April 27. Laraway said this year’s seniors who missed last year’s SAT day will be able to take the test on either Oct. 14 or Oct. 28.

Click here for the full calendar.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in March gave states the green light to cancel state testing. Every state ultimately exercised that option, Education Week’s Catherine Gewertz reported in April.

Despite Blew’s announcement last week, some states have indicated they will seek testing waivers for the upcoming school year — and officials in Georgia already have, Chalkbeat’s Matt Barnum reported last week.

It’s too early to know what Idaho’s situation with coronavirus will be by next spring, and no decisions about the state’s eventual pursuit of a waiver have been made, SDE spokeswoman Kris Rodine told EdNews.

State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra “will continue to monitor the situation and work with stakeholders … and the State Board of Education on any future waiver decisions,” Rodine said.

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He is a 2019 Solutions Journalism Network fellow and the Idaho Press Club's 2019 print reporter of the year. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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