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Federal Student Assessment Test Canceled Due To COVID-19 Pandemic

Lockers in an empty school hallway.

Montana Education Officials announced Thursday that a federal standardized test used to assess student progress across the country has been canceled this spring. That leaves the state with few options to monitor student learning progress amid the pandemic. 

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, is the only federal test that’s completely standardized, giving federal and state education officials an apples-to-apples comparison on student progress between individual schools and states as a whole.

Montana Office of Public Instruction spokesperson Dylan Klapmeier says remote instruction during the pandemic is a logistical barrier for the Montana schools that were set to take the test this spring.

"There was no guarantee that we were going to get consistent and reliable data from that test that actually reflects the learning that’s going on and how COVID has impacted that learning."

Klapmeier says OPI is still waiting to hear from federal education officials about whether other federally mandated tests such as the Smarter Balanced Assessment or the ACT will be canceled.

"The preference of the OPI would be to have those tests waived for this coming spring semester."

Typically, OPI uses those federal tests in its accreditation process for schools. Klapmeier says schools are still giving students local assessment tests. 

Klapmeier says OPI is still considering whether to use local benchmarking tests to assess student progress if those federal tests are canceled. However, with districts using a variety of testing products, it would be difficult to get a uniform picture of student progress and how the pandemic has impacted student learning.

According to the Northwest Evaluation Association, the pandemic didn’t setback student learning as severely as some predicted. According to the association’s preliminary data, students across the U.S. made gains in reading and only suffered minor losses in math.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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