School.jpg

Only a small portion of Yakima Valley students will participate in annual national standardized tests this year if a state request is approved.

On Tuesday, the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction plans to ask the federal government to significantly reduce the number of Washington students who will participate in annual assessments. It would mean 50,000 instead of 700,000 students would take the tests.

The plan “aims to drastically reduce testing burdens on students, families, schools, and school districts across Washington while also fulfilling the need to obtain precise, representative estimates of students’ academic proficiency levels,” OSPI said on its website.

During a Wednesday evening informational webinar for the public, Superintendent Chris Reykdal said the waiver proposal would save a collective 4.5 million instructional hours that would ordinarily be spent on testing.

The request comes amid the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on education. The U.S. Department of Education is not accepting full waivers for assessments, as it did last academic year. OSPI previously requested a full waiver, which was denied, officials said.

Public comment on the proposed waiver is open through 5 p.m. Monday, before OSPI reviews the comments and submits its request to the federal department Tuesday.

The waiver applies to federal testing only, including the Smarter Balanced and WA-AIM tests, OSPI officials said. They also pointed out that the State Board of Education is allowing certain waivers of high school requirements again this school year.

Proposed waiver request

The state’s waiver and assessment plan includes testing “a statistically representative sample of approximately 50,000 students,” according to the OSPI website. If approved, this would include a portion of third and seventh graders being tested in English language arts; a portion of fifth and 10th graders tested in mathematics; and a portion of eighth graders tested in science.

OSPI officials said during the webinar that the sample of students for each of the grade levels would be selected by randomly sampling 50% of school districts in each of the nine Educational Service Districts across the state. Within those districts, a random selection of 25% of their schools would then be selected. Among those schools, all students in the grade being selected would be assessed.

The state would report statewide and specific group results. Reports would not be available at the district or school level.

All state-identified English learners would receive an English language proficiency test, and schools identified for improvement supports would maintain this status through the upcoming school year.

Officials said testing would take place in person. Students could opt out at the request of a parent or guardian, in the case of families that have chosen not to return to campus, for example.

Reykdal said while assessments are important, the statistical sample would help leaders understand the impact of the last school year on students and different demographics. The reduction of time spent on federal testing would also allow local schools to do their own assessments to understand where individual students need extra intervention and help.

Public comment on the state’s proposed request to the federal government can be submitted in English or Spanish through 5 p.m. Monday at https://survey.alchemer.com/s3/6240852/2021-Assessment-Waiver-Public-Comment.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The headline on this story originally contained a misspelling, which has been corrected.

Reach Janelle Retka at jretka@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: @janelleretka