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U.S. Department of Education Communication on Assessment & Accountability

Friday, February 26, 2021

Dear District Administrators,

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has announced there will be no waiver for federal assessments and all states will be required to publish the results, including disaggregated data for all subgroups of students. At the same time, ED is indicating it will be open to waivers of federal accountability provisions, including the requirement to test 95 percent of all students.

The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has already applied for much of the flexibility outlined in the letter and if additional flexibility is made available we will pursue that as well. The DPI already submitted the following requests to ED:

  • a waiver from the 95 percent testing threshold for accountability purposes
  • a waiver from the requirement to test all English learners for language proficiency
  • an addendum to Wisconsin’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act plan and an associated waiver related to identification of schools for comprehensive support and improvement, targeted support and improvement, and additional targeted support and improvement; long term goals and selected accountability indicators; and 95 percent test participation

ED also outlined in its letter flexibilities states could pursue in testing that did not require a waiver. They included reducing test time, extending the test window, and providing a remote assessment. The first two flexibilities have already been implemented by the DPI. The Forward Exam administration was reduced by 70-80 minutes and the DPI has extended assessment windows for ACCESS for ELLs, Forward Exam, DLM, and Aspire. Further, ACT with writing will be available in an in-person, online format (in addition to the paper and pencil this year), to provide 15 additional days of assessment opportunities. The DPI had discussed remote testing with the state’s testing vendors, but this will not be possible.

The DPI has provided districts various resources for administering assessments this school year amid the pandemic, including a document titled “Strategies and Considerations for In-Person Assessment During a Pandemic,” which provides considerations for district and school leaders to plan and safely administer assessments this spring. This information should be used as a starting point and adjusted to fit each assessment and each school’s unique student population and needs.