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US okays Va. request to cancel SOL tests for 2019-20 school year

The U.S. Department of Education has given Virginia permission to cancel federally mandated Standards of Learning tests during the 2019-2020 school year.

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane submitted the commonwealth’s waiver application on Friday after the federal agency informed the Virginia Department of Education that the application did not require prior approval from the state Board of Education.

On Saturday, the federal department gave VDOE the green light to implement the waiver pending formal approval later this spring.

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 requires states to administer annual assessments in reading and mathematics in grades 3-8 and at least once in high school. The law also requires testing in science at least once in elementary, middle and high school. On March 20, in the wake of extended school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced an expedited process for approving statewide waivers of ESSA testing mandates.

“I would like to thank USED for how quickly they are granting these waivers so that we can provide certainty for our educators and students,” Lane said.

Last week, Governor Ralph Northam ordered all schools in the commonwealth closed through the end of the current academic year as a means for slowing the spread of coronavirus.

The commonwealth’s assessment system also includes tests in writing and social studies and history that are not required by the federal law. VDOE is exploring options for cancelling the administration of state-required SOL tests during the reconvened session of the General Assembly in April.

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