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Pa. asks to waive school tests

HARRISBURG — The issues surrounding the return of elementary and secondary schools to regular in-person education amid the COVID-19 pandemic were the subject of a House Education Committee meeting Tuesday.

Two state Education Department officials and education leaders fielded questions from lawmakers about changing guidance from Washington about resuming in-person instruction and scheduling the Keystone Exam and Pennsylvania System of School Assessment.

But on Wednesday, the chairs of Pennsylvania’s state Senate Education Committee asked the Biden administration to waive this year’s requirement for school standardized testing because of the pandemic.

State Sens. Lindsey Williams, D-Allegheny, and Scott Martin, R-Lancaster, wrote in a letter that they understood the need to find out how much learning and what kind of learning children missed during the pandemic.

Students need “some sense of stability before we thrust additional stress on them in the name of determining what schools ‘deserve’ more funding,” they wrote to President Joe Biden and Acting Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s Department of Education is considering allowing districts to administer the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments and Keystone Exams over the summer or in September, when schools are expected to be back to educating children in classrooms, rather than remotely.

On Monday, the U.S. Education Department said it will not allow states to forgo federally required standardized testing in schools this year, but will give them flexibility to delay testing or hold it online.

The Biden administration said states also can apply to be exempted from certain accountability measures tied to the results.

States will be allowed to move tests to the summer or fall, or they can offer shortened tests or online assessments.

Tuesday’s House Education Committee meeting also delved into learning gaps due to the pandemic, undertaking remedial instruction, meeting student attendance requirements, student mental and emotional health needs and vaccinating teachers and school employees.

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