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With ELA test shipments suspended, North Shore hopes for a federal waiver

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The New York State Education Department suspended shipping the grades three through eight English Language Arts tests that were scheduled to arrive in schools March 16 to 18. SED officials said this was done because schools are closed amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“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.”

Dr. Peter Giarrizzo, superintendent of the North Shore School District, said the ELA testing is the least of his concerns at the moment. Instead, he said he is much more focused on making sure the children in the district stay healthy, and that they are able to receive the best online education they can when virtual teaching launches on Friday.

While he said that the district is waiting on the state to see what further developments may occur, Giarrizzo said he hopes the federal government will waive the need for ELA testing entirely.

“I would hope that the federal governmett will exercise good judgment,” Giarrizzo said. “As we’re struggling with extended school closures and teaching online, this has never been done before, so I’m hoping that common sense will prevail because the ELA testing is by far not the most important thing that we’re grappling with right now.”

Joanna Commander, a North Shore Board of Education trustee, said it is very difficult to predict anything when it comes to how school districts will move forward with testing. This is something the district has never seen, she said, and it would be shortsighted to come up with an immediate solution for something that can change in a moment’s notice. She said everything needs to be taken one day at a time.

“In this time of uncertainty, I think there’s a great human desire to have things put in order for us because it’s scary,” Commander said, “but I think we’re going need to learn to live with that — not to live in fear, but to realize that things are going to need to take a while to shake out.”

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 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 distinct advantage to do well and the results would 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 also questions surrounding those exams, but Giarrizzo said he expects to receive more information from the College Board on Friday. 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

Additionally, Giarrizzo said the district’s regents exams are still scheduled for June barring any further changes.