State school board asks lawmakers for testing, grading waivers due to COVID-19

Posted April 9, 2020 4:47 p.m. EDT
Updated April 9, 2020 5:27 p.m. EDT

— State education leaders held an emergency meeting by phone Thursday to approve a slate of coronavirus-related changes they'll ask state lawmakers to act on when they return for their short session April 28th.

Many of the recommended changes follow policy decisions that the board has already made. But because legislators have written into law so many reporting and accountability requirements for schools and students, they'll need to officially waive those requirements for this school year.

The state board of education voted unanimously to ask lawmakers to waive requirements for "Read to Achieve" testing and diagnostics for K-3 students for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. They're also seeking waivers for requirements for end-of-grade and end-of-course exams, as well as report cards for students and school performance grades.

Board chairman Eric Davis said the waiver requests "do not reflect any change in the board's support of high academic standards, effective assessments to inform instruction, or an accountability system that continuously drives impoved academic achievement for our students. Consideration of these requests are necessitated by the unique events of COVID-19."

Under the recommendations, teacher and principal performance-based bonuses would be suspended for the year. Teachers whose licenses expire on June 30, 2020 would get a one-year extension to take the exam to renew them. Students finishing education degrees wouldn't have to pass the regularly required exam to be recommended for a license. And students coming into education programs would not have to pass an entrance exam called the Praxis Core.

The board also voted to grant iStation a three-month contract extension through June 30th to maintain accounts and assessment data on file for North Carolina students. The contract, worth about $243,000, is a much scaled-back version of an earlier proposed iStation contract that was backed by Superintendent Mark Johnson, but that the board rejected last month.

Under the maintenance contract, which still has to be approved by the state IT department, school districts who want to use additional services from the vendor will need to use local funds to pay for them. In a statement after Friday's meeting, Johnson called that decision "disappointing."

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