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COVID-19 Assessment FAQs

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Updated 2/8/2021


Testing Requirements

Q. Are statewide assessments required for 2020-21?

A. Yes, state and federal law require the administration of statewide assessments; these laws remain unchanged. The Wisconsin statewide assessments include the ACCESS for ELLs, Forward Exam, DLM, Aspire, and the ACT assessments. All districts and schools should begin planning for in-person testing now; this includes schools whose current instruction is hybrid, in-person, or 100% virtual. If schools are not open for in-person instruction, they still need to safely provide an in-person, school proctored testing environment (i.e. schools or an alternate community setting). In 2021, remote (virtual) testing options are not available for statewide assessments.

Q. Does a school have to test if they are 100% virtual?

A. Yes, state and federal law require the administration of statewide assessments. This includes schools whose current instruction is 100% virtual. If schools are not open for in-person instruction, they still need to safely provide an in-person, school proctored testing environment (e.g., schools or an alternate community setting). In 2021, remote (virtual) testing options are not available for statewide assessments.

Q. Where can a district or school find information to help begin planning for 2020-21 assessments?

A. The department has released a new resource, Strategies and Considerations for In-Person Assessment During a Pandemic, that provides considerations for district and school leaders for planning and administration of assessments this spring.

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Administration

Q. Is there an online testing option for students who are learning 100% virtually?

A. There is no remote (virtual) option for statewide assessments. State and federal law require the administration of statewide assessments. This includes schools whose current instruction is 100% virtual and students whose parents have opted them into 100% virtual learning instead of hybrid or in-person learning. If schools are not open for in-person instruction, they still need to safely provide an in-person, school proctored testing environment (i.e. schools or an alternate community setting).

Q. Why is there no remote (virtual) testing option available?

A. At this time, our testing companies do not offer a remote assessment option. Proctored, on-site testing ensures standardized administration that includes equitable access to technology and optimal testing environments, test security, and validity.

Q. Has DPI made any changes to the statewide assessments this year in response to the pandemic and administration during these challenging times?

A. For current administration changes to the statewide assessments please refer to the COVID-19 Assessment Updates webpage.

Q. How do we test students who are in other facilities (ex. a combination school/in-treatment facility)
A. Testing of students in these circumstances would happen the same way they would in a normal year. See specific assessment FAQ webpage for more information: ACT FAQ, DLM FAQ, Forward FAQ, Aspire FAQ, ACCESS for ELLs FAQ

Q. Do we need to test homeless students who are still enrolled in our district?

A. Every student enrolled in the district is expected to participate in the assessment. If you don’t know where a student is or cannot reach the student, they will count as a not-tested student.

Q. Do we need to test a student that has moved (even out of state) but is still doing virtual learning through our district?
A. Every student enrolled in the district is expected to participate in the assessment. If a student is enrolled virtually, they need to test.

Q. Will technology set up be different if we need to test at an alternate site?

A. Contact the specific assessment’s helpdesk for information about technology set up. The Forward Exam has put out guidance for alternate site testing available on the Forward Exam Technology Resources webpage.

Q. Who may proctor a statewide assessment?

A. A qualified test administrator/proctor (TA) is an employed district staff member (including administrators, teachers, and paraprofessionals) who has been trained in test administration, test security, and appropriate use of test accommodations. This may also include student teachers who normally have responsibility for supervising students. Parent volunteers should not be allowed to proctor the examination. School personnel who are parents or guardians should not be allowed to proctor their own children. Please refer to specific assessment FAQs for additional requirements as they pertain to ACT, DLM, Forward, Aspire, and ACCESS for ELLs.

Q. Will there be testing window extensions for schools who may need to close down during the current testing windows?

A. There is no plan to provide additional extensions to the current testing windows. Districts should start planning now to test early and make the most of the current testing windows for make-ups or back-up testing plans to ensure all students have access to test safely.

Q. When should districts begin planning and set up for testing?

A. District should be planning and preparing for set up as soon as possible. Any device updates may be more difficult this year with students off-site.

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Parent Opt-out or Parent Refusal

Q. How can a school or district encourage parents to bring their student in for testing?

A. Early and clear communication is key. The department has created template “Notification of Upcoming Assessment” letters specific to each assessment and with details for 2020-21 testing. This letter includes information for parents about what districts may be doing to ensure student safety during testing. It is important that districts provide information to families as soon as possible so parents have time to consider all options.

Q. Can we mandate that students come into the building to complete the test if their parents have chosen virtual learning?

A. The district cannot mandate that students come into the building for testing.

Q. What do we do if a parent refuses to bring their child in for the statewide assessment?

A. Families have the right to opt-out of testing as they have in previous years. District and school staff do not have the authority to opt students out of testing. Only a student’s family may opt a student out of testing.

Q. Is there a letter or form a parent can sign opting their student out of statewide testing for this year?

A. DPI does not provide a form. Some districts choose to create a parent opt-out form in order to collect the same information for every family. The method by which you choose to collect the written request is a local decision.

Q. When is parent/guardian opt-out allowed?

A. When a parent or guardian requests that the student be excused from participating in the WSAS, this request must be honored at grades 4, 8, 9-11, per Wis. Stats. 118.30(2)(b)3. This request may come at any time during the testing window. All students excused by parent opt-out are marked as “not tested” students in school and district reporting determinations.

Q. How does a parent/guardian request an opt-out for their student?

A. A parent must submit a written request for student opt-out to the principal or the school board. Per Wis. Stats. 118.30(2)(b)3., if the student is in grades 4, 8, and 9-11 the request must be granted. However, if the student is not in the above mentioned grade levels, the decision to grant the request is at the discretion of the school board.

Q. Can families opt their child out of ACCESS for ELLs?

A. There are no statutory provisions allowing families to opt-out of the English language proficiency assessment (ACCESS or Alternate ACCESS). However, districts cannot mandate that a student participate in these assessments if a parent or guardian refuses.

Q. Can families opt their child out of the Reading Readiness assessment?

A. There are no statutory provisions allowing families to opt-out or the reading readiness assessments. However, districts cannot mandate that a student participate in these assessments if a parent or guardian refuses.

Q. Does a school have to take every parent opt-out in grades 3,5,6, and 7 before their board for approval?

A. How school boards choose to handle opt-outs is a local decision.

Q. Does a school need to acquire a written parent opt-out request from every parent who refuses to bring their child in for testing?

A. Acquiring a formal opt-out from a parent that refuses to bring a child in for testing will allow the district to focus on arrangements for students who will be participating.

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Accountability

Q. How will participation affect our accountability (i.e. report cards) this year?

A. Participation requirements are still in place at the federal level. State report card scores are not affected by participation rates, however, they are still posted on WISEdash and used for Federal accountability.

State Accountability

DPI publishes school and district test participation on accountability report cards for informational purposes only. In other words, test participation is included on the report card, but has no impact on report card scoring.

Federal Accountability (ESSA)

ESSA requires academic achievement calculations to be based on the greater of 95% of students enrolled for the full academic year or the actual number of students tested. Wisconsin’s ESSA system applies this requirement by adjusting the denominator of the points based proficiency rate calculation to the 95% tested level for schools testing below the required 95% rate. In other words, schools that have student groups with lower than a 95% test participation rate will have lowered achievement indicator scores.

ACCESS for ELLs

Federal and state law require all English learners to be assessed for English language proficiency every year. ACCESS for ELLs results are used to make uniform exiting determinations for students, show progress, and evaluate program effectiveness. Though test participation does not impact accountability scoring calculated with ACCESS results, reduced test participation may play out in a secondary way in that results are limited to a sub-population of those who should be tested and is not representative of school-level performance.

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Miscellaneous

Q. What educational models are being employed by districts during the COVID-19 pandemic and do they all need to participate in the 2021 assessments?

A. The following four educational models are being employed by districts during the pandemic and students in all models are required to administer the 2021 assessments.

In-Person Model - Districts that are providing 100% in-person instruction should provide testing as in previous years.

Hybrid Model - Districts providing a hybrid instructional model (partial virtual/partial in-person instruction) should test students as they rotate through the building.

Optional Virtual Model - Districts providing a virtual learning option even though the district is using in-person or Hybrid models, should make plans to bring these students into the building for in-person assessments.

Virtual Model - Districts providing 100% virtual learning should make plans to bring these students into the building for in-person assessments.

Q. Who is responsible for transportation if a district is virtual but students must come in and test in person?

A. As the assessments must be administered in person, and students are required to report to some district-identified facility, and students are eligible for transportation, then generally (as long as the district is not operating under the city option exemption) the district must offer transportation to and from that site.

To be eligible for transportation, the student must be a district resident and live two miles or more from the school or testing location (or closer, if the area between home and school is identified in a district plan as hazardous for walking).

Transportation for eligible students may be provided by a variety of means – yellow bus, city bus, taxi, parent contract.

See the transportation to public schools webpage for more information.

Q. What if I don’t have access to the school buildings to test students?

A: If schools are not open for in-person instruction, they still need to safely provide an in-person, school-proctored testing environment if the local health orders allow students and staff to be in school buildings. Districts may administer the assessments in an alternative setting (community center, church, library, etc.) if they are proctored by trained district staff and the local health guidelines are followed.

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