National US maths and reading exams postponed until 2022, amid the coronavirus pandemic

James Crump
·2 min read
A schoolyard is closed outside a public school in the Brooklyn borough of New York City on 19 November 2020 ((AFP via Getty Images))
A schoolyard is closed outside a public school in the Brooklyn borough of New York City on 19 November 2020 ((AFP via Getty Images))

The National Centre for Education Statistics (NCES) has announced that a standardised test in maths and reading will be postponed in the US until 2022, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which assesses hundreds of thousands of fourth and eighth graders, will be moved from spring 2021 to 2022, according to Reuters.

The NAEP assessments, often described as “the nation’s report card”, have long been used to measure educational progress in the US and are generally held every two years.

The assessments are overseen by the government and are used to create a representative sample of students from all socioeconomic backgrounds across the US, according to USA Today.

In a statement on Wednesday, NCES commissioner James Woodworth said: “I have determined that NCES cannot at this time conduct a national-level assessment in a manner with sufficient validity and reliability to meet the mandate of the law”.

The commissioner said that it is too difficult to find suitable conditions to assess students in time for the scheduled date of the exams, as many are being taught from home amid the pandemic.

“The change in operations and lack of access to students to be assessed means that NAEP will not be able to produce estimates of what students know and can do that would be comparable to either past or future national or state estimates,” he said.

“I was obviously concerned about sending outsiders into schools and possibly increasing the risk of Covid transmission,” Mr Woodworth added.

Coronavirus cases among US children have increased dramatically recently, as more than 256,000 positive tests among young people were recorded in the past two weeks.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released its weekly figures for coronavirus cases in children on Monday, which showed close to 1.2 million positive tests for young people in the US since the pandemic began.

Coronavirus deaths in children are rare, as figures from the AAP show that the fatality rate is still around 0.01 per cent. At least 137 young people have died from the virus in the US.

Bobby Scott, the Democrat chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labour, and Democrat Patty Murray, who serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labour and Pensions Committee, said in a joint statement on Wednesday that delaying the exams was “a moral imperative.”

However, education secretary Betsy DeVos wrote a letter to Congress and the centre on Tuesday that said “the much more valuable and actionable measures of learning loss will be the annual assessments required of states”.

Ms DeVos added that because the NAEP is federally mandated, Congress will have to sign off on the decision to postpone the national tests.

According to a tracking project hosted by Johns Hopkins University, there are now more than 12.7 million people who have tested positive for the coronavirus in the US. The death toll has reached 262,435.

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