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California’s Statewide Standardized K-12 Tests Suspended by New Executive Order

Executive Order N-30-20 would need federal approval

By Evan Symon, March 19, 2020 2:39 pm

On Wednesday, it was announced that Gov. Gavin Newsom had signed a new executive order granting all schools in grades K-12 to skip this years standardized tests because of the school closures brought on by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Executive Order N-30-20 would need federal approval to be made fully official.

Gov. Newsom wrote the executive order as a way to reduce class burden to perform well on a test – something they would now have to do with less class and study time due to the pandemic.

“This time is stressful enough for students, families and educators without the additional burden of annual testing,” Gov. Newsom said after signing the order. “This is an unprecedented time, and our main focus is on supporting the mental and socioemotional health of students, while continuing to provide educational opportunities such as distance learning.”

“As schools are struggling to maintain instruction, feed students, and provide child care, they need to focus first and foremost on these pressing responsibilities,” added California State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond in the Governor’s press release. “The safety and well-being of children and staff has to be our No. 1 concern. We do not want concerns about testing to distract them from their critical work at this time of national emergency.”

It remains unknown if the federal government would approve such a measure for just California. Federal standardized tests help set how much federal money schools get, with school districts in turn setting teacher pay based on standardized test performance. Many low-income school districts have criticized standardized testing as giving money to wealthier districts over poorer districts. This has received so much criticism that the National Education Association (NEA) has actually called on for a reduced number of tests in favor of different tests and lessons designed to help students.

“If other states follow, then the federal government might accept it and make it nationwide,” noted Lauren Kingman, a former education lobbying group staffer. “But if it’s only California coming through, they may deny them. Especially with this president, who doesn’t approve of many Californian policies. He’ll probably have the Department of Education stop it.”

“But if enough states do it, and it looks like most school districts are out for the year, then it might happen. Texas and Washington joining with California is a very convincing start.”

“If that does occur, last years grades would probably be carried over until next years tests. But it all comes down to who, if anyone, joins California.”

The executive order is expected to be ruled on by the federal government in the next few weeks. As of Thursday, only Texas and Washington have suspended standardized testing on the state level, with Ohio, Michigan, Mississippi, and Georgia also currently calling for it to end for the year.

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