Since the pandemic began last year and schools closed, there has been concern raised about how much students were actually learning by attending classes virtually.

There is also a growing consensus that it doesn’t make sense to have students take standard assessment tests this year.

Last month, the U.S. Department of education announced no waivers for standardized testing requirements would be granted to any state because of the ongoing pandemic.

Nevertheless, during the latest COVID update in Trenton on Wednesday, Acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan announced the state was pressing ahead with its waiver request — but school districts must be prepared for all contingencies.

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“We will also issue a memorandum to all districts directing them to preparation for a spring administration of the New Jersey Student Learning Assessments," she said.

Gov. Phil Murphy said giving these tests this year doesn’t make sense.

“You want to have some ability to have consistency in the context in which these assessments are taken,” he said, which may not be possible when some districts are fully remote and others are in a hybrid plan/

Allen-McMillan said many educators, parents and caregivers as well as policymakers and researchers agree that the more time students spend away from in-person instructional time, “the greater the risk of learning loss and of social, emotional and mental health impacts for our students.”

She noted setbacks in educational development will not be spread evenly among all students.

“Those who historically have faced the biggest hurdles of unlocking their full potential will likely bear the brunt of these impacts,” she said.

Allen-McMillan said these groups include students with disabilities, English learners, low-income students, Black and Hispanic students, students experiencing homelessness and those in foster care.

She pointed out the process to request the waiver started before the Biden administration announced waivers would not be given “and there is language that allows for the opportunity to request a waiver of the administration so we are pursuing that narrow window and we believe that our plan is a strong plan.”

Sean Spiller, vice president of the New Jersey Education Association, said he believes the guidance from the U.S. Department of Education is “hazy” and the NJEA supports efforts to waive the testing requirement this year.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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