Concerns grow over mandate to administer standardized tests in person during coronavirus pandemic
Posted December 7, 2020 6:45 p.m. EST
Updated December 7, 2020 7:42 p.m. EST
Durham, N.C. — Pressure is growing for schools to get some kind of relief from traditional standardized tests as coronavirus cases reach new highs.
Federal requirements instruct that the tests be taken in-person this year.
Durham Public Schools are preparing students, with precautions.
DPS leaders said they have taken a very serious approach to the coronavirus pandemic by keeping students online to learn this year.
The thought of bringing students back together for standardized tests has added stress to an already intense situation for many.
Senior year for Lauryn Wilson is nothing like she expected.
“It’s like trying to keep my grades up at a good point for college and stuff like that and also having to worry about applications," said Wilson, who attends Durham School of the Arts.
She said she knows standardized tests are important to her dreams of higher education, but there’s now an additional level of anxiety that weighs on her mind.
“Getting sick, and stuff like that, and being in an environment with a lot of other teenagers and being exposed to the public," she listed.
“It’s a state requirement that we have to provide these tests. They’re not giving us an option of doing them remotely," said Chip Sudderth, a spokesman for the school district.
Sudderth said several precautions will be in place like screenings on site, temperature checks, testing windows and minimizing the number of students in each test room.
“Our school board did request that the State Board of Education do offer us a waiver, and that did not happen," added Sudderth.
It is a federal rule that the tests take place in-person to ensure testing security and to collect data on how students are doing.
The Durham Public Schools Board of Education is pursuing a pair of waivers to lower the stakes if students don’t show up to take the tests.
“We do have some levels of flexibility here. They can take an incomplete on the course and take the exam later in the year when hopefully our numbers will be much better," said Sudderth.
The current rule is that tests count for at least 20% of a student’s grade. A decision will come in January if that will change.