States suspending standardized tests as schools close

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 11, 2020, file photo, custodial staffer Hortensia Salinas uses an Electrostatic Clorox Sprayer to spray disinfectant in a classroom at Brownsville Early College High School in Brownsville, Texas. Closing schools to combat the spread of the coronavirus is having a sweeping impact on an annual rite of spring: the standardized tests that are dreaded by millions of students and teachers alike. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald via AP, File)
FILE - In this Wednesday, March 11, 2020, file photo, custodial staffer Hortensia Salinas uses an Electrostatic Clorox Sprayer to spray disinfectant in a classroom at Brownsville Early College High School in Brownsville, Texas. Closing schools to combat the spread of the coronavirus is having a sweeping impact on an annual rite of spring: the standardized tests that are dreaded by millions of students and teachers alike. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald via AP, File) (Copyright 2020)

AUSTIN, Texas – Closing schools to combat the spread of the coronavirus is having a sweeping impact on an annual rite of spring: the standardized tests that are dreaded by millions of students and teachers alike.

Several states have canceled standardized testing for this academic year as they face school closures that could last weeks or months. The tests were scheduled to begin in early April in many states.

While that's easing the burden on students and teachers, it's also creating problems. The federal government requires states to perform annual standardized assessments under the Every Student Succeeds Act. And education groups warn that moving classes online won't deliver equitable learning across states, school districts and even within classrooms.

Several states have asked U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to waive those requirements. The department has said states can apply for a waiver on a case-by-case basis, but no blanket waiver has been announced.

In a recent advisory to schools, the department said it generally doesn't grant broad waivers from the assessments that provide valuable information for parents, teachers and schools. But it said it would consider a targeted waiver for schools badly hit by the current “extraordinary circumstances.”

"It’s time for Betsy DeVos to do the right thing on behalf of our students and waive statewide assessments,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Tuesday. “When our kids get back to school, our number one priority must be ensuring they have the resources they need to get back on track.”

The department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday canceled the annual State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness tests for about 3.5 million students. More than half of the state's 1,200 school districts, including the largest in Dallas and Houston and Austin, are facing prolonged school closures.