The spread of the coronavirus transformed our education system overnight. With school districts completely caught off-guard by the speed and severity of the outbreak, the U.S. Department of Education announced flexibility for states to cancel their annual summative assessments and accountability ratings for the 2019-2020 school year.

As the start of a new school year rapidly approaches, it is still not clear what form schools will take. Prioritizing the creation of a healthy environment where students can continue to learn should be paramount. In this unpredictable environment, education leaders have expressed interest in assessment and accountability flexibility. However, as policy makers determine what that flexibility looks like, they should consider the consequences of pausing testing for another year.

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Now more than ever, states must find a way to assess student learning. Failure to capture where students are this fall and how they are performing relative to grade-level expectations at year’s end may result in an inability to direct resources to students who need it most, further exacerbating deep and long-standing inequities within our communities and school systems.

Calls to consider additional flexibility are warranted, but there are more constructive ways for policy makers to lead assessment and accountability reform. As such, here are 10 ways states and the U.S. Department of Education can expand learning opportunities and better serve the education community.

State policies

Invest in remote proctoring: It is likely that hybrid learning is here to stay, and educators may not be able to administer tests in the typical classroom setting. The transition to online proctoring offers a chance for educators to overcome the limits of in-person testing environments and address student learning needs with timely, accurate, and relevant student achievement data.

About the Author:

Dr. Aaliyah Samuel has experience in policy development and implementation at the local, state, and national level. With expertise from early childhood through higher education, Aaliyah leads a team driving an ambitious state and federal education agenda focused on systems-level change. Prior to NWEA, Aaliyah was the Director of Education at the National Governors Association. In this role, she informed state policy agendas, assisted with developing cross systems approaches to create policy solutions to support children and families, and drove strategic planning efforts. Aaliyah holds an undergraduate degree from Tuskegee University, a master’s from University of South Florida, and specialist and EdD degrees from Nova Southeastern University. In 2019, she was appointed as a Fellow to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.


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