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Butler High School in Matthews. Photo courtesy of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

North Carolina public school students will not be required to take federally required tests this year due to the new coronavirus outbreak, which forced all public schools to close as of March 16.

COVID-19 NC news

The state Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to request a testing waiver from the federal government so students will not have to take end-of-grade exams in grades 3-8 and end-of-course exams in high school.

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said students impacted by school closures could bypass standardized testing this year if their state requests it. The federal government granted North Carolina’s waiver late Monday.

“Neither students nor teachers need to be focused on high-stakes tests during this difficult time,” DeVos said in a statement. “Students are simply too unlikely to be able to perform their best in this environment.”

The board also plans to ask state lawmakers for a similar waiver. Also on Monday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced an executive order that extended the closure of K-12 schools statewide through May 15. State leaders are also expected to approve the requests.

“While closing schools for instruction was a difficult decision that has disrupted the lives of our students teachers and families, it was the correct decision,” said state Board of Education Chairman Eric Davis. Now, the state must “shift our current vision of education,” he added.

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore shared a similar message Friday.

“We are communicating closely with the federal government and understand that as their testing is compromised, North Carolina should follow their lead in reducing these end-of-year requirements to assist school districts,” Moore said in a statement.

SATs, AP exams impacted

Advanced Placement exams and the SATs have also been affected.

The College Board, which administers the tests, canceled the May 2 SAT and March SAT makeup exams. Students who already registered for May, whose March test centers were closed or who do not receive March scores because of any irregularities, will receive refunds. The June 6 SAT has not been canceled yet.

The College Board will provide more SAT testing opportunities for students as soon as possible, according to the organization’s website.

On Friday, The College Board said traditional face-to-face AP exams will not take place. Instead, students will take a 45-minute online free-response exam at home. For each AP subject, there will be two different testing dates — one for students who want to take the exam sooner while the content is still fresh and another for students who want more time to practice.

The full exam schedule, specific free-response question types that will be on each AP exam and additional testing details will be available by April 3.

“The College Board is focused on student safety and ensuring all students have the tools they need to work, and opportunities to receive the credit they have earned,” Jaslee Carayol, College Board media relations director, said by email.

“Together with our member schools and colleges, we will be flexible, thoughtful, and collaborative in exploring ways to continue to support student learning and provide opportunities to test during this challenging time,” she added.

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Kelly Hinchcliffe is a Carolina Public Press contributing writer based in Orange County. Email info@carolinapublicpress.org to contact the Carolina Public Press news team.

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