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All state exams suspended amid outbreak

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The New York State Education Department suspended all state assessment exams for students in grades three to eight for the 2019-2020 school year due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The announcement came on March 20, only a few days after the state halted the shipping of the English Language Arts tests on March 16.

In a notice sent to school districts across the state, Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa and interim State Education Commissioner Shannon Tahoe wrote, "It is most important that during the time of closure, schools are able to continue to focus their efforts toward local school and community needs, as they have been doing, and not be concerned about state assessments.”

NYSED has applied for federal waivers for testing, accountability and reporting requirements.

“The situation is evolving rapidly, and NYSED is currently working on its plans for the state assessment,” Zachary Warner wrote in a March 17 email to district superintendents, school principals and leaders of charter school. He is the director of the Office of State Assessment for SED.

“The Office of State Assessment will continue to communicate with schools and districts as more information becomes available,” he added. “During the time of closure, schools need not focus on state assessments and can devote their efforts toward local school and community needs.”

Freeport Union Free School District Superintendent Kishore Kuncham said that he had never experienced something like this in his 11 years at Freeport, but he figured the tests would be suspended because of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's call to shutdown schools until April 1.

"We could expect for schools to remain close for even longer," Kuncham said. "We're awaiting the state's decision and keeping up with the COVID-19 situation."

To stay current on state decision making, go to the SED’s webpage dedicated to coronavirus: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/sss/schoolhealth/schoolhealthservices/coronavirus.html.

The New York State United Teachers called on U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to waive state testing mandates for the students in grades three through eight for the remainder of the school year and the duration of the outbreak with schools down to help stem the spread of the virus.

“This is not the time to create more stress for our kids," NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said in a news release. “It is critical that the federal government step up now and waive mandated state testing for all kids for the rest of this school year and the duration of this crisis.”

NYSUT officials said the organization is working with the SED and state Board of Regents to help ensure that the federal government waives testing mandates and that no school is penalized. The teachers’ union said that even if school should re-open in several weeks, there would be substantially less test preparation time, placing the students at a distinct advantage to do well and the results would be skewed.

“Even worse, considering the pervasive unease and uncertainty that this global pandemic has created, it simply isn't fair or prudent to create more stress and anxiety for our students,” NYSUT officials said.

Advanced Placement exams are scheduled for May. There are also questions surrounding those exams. The College Board has created a webpage with updates related to schools impacted by coronavirus. Go to: https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/about-ap/news-changes/coronavirus-update-Ronny Reyes contributed to this story