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No waivers for mandated student testing this year

With 60% of Homewood students learning remotely, District 153 school administrators are trying to figure out how it can coax them to return to classrooms for five days of mandated state testing.

Under the rules, District 153 should show a 95% testing participation rate, but Kathy Schaeflein, District 153 director of curriculum, said schools won’t be obliged to meet that standard for the Illinois Assessment of Readiness exam this year. 

“We need to give (the test) in person, so we will invite those kids who are remote learners to come in and take the test, even though they’re remote learning,” she said. The district is trying to figure out how it can set a testing schedule for those students.

Students who returned to District 153 classrooms on a hybrid learning model the week of March 1 will have five class days set aside for testing by May 14, but they make up only 40% of the student population.

“We just want to focus right now on the fact that we have students back in the buildings. We want the learning and the enthusiasm and the engagement to continue. (Testing) is not our priority right now,” Schaeflein said.

“Our concern is we’re just bringing kids back and now we’re going to give them a test. That just doesn’t seem really fair,” she said. The district is planning “to give ourselves some time to get our kids acclimated and not do testing until after spring break (the week of March 29). We want kids to be in school and learning and not put them in front of a computer in school for a test.”

There are no expectations that every student in the district will be tested, but the test scores for the students who do sit for the exam – the 40% of those in hybrid learning and whatever number of remote learners come to take the exam – will be recorded on the school’s annual State Report Card. Schaeflein said the state indicated the records will have an asterisk to indicate the numbers were affected by the pandemic.

The Illinois Assessment for Readiness has five parts – three for English/language arts and two for math. Schaeflein said since students are only attending school half-days, the testing will take an entire week out of their learning schedule.

The district must also administer a science exam to fifth and eighth graders. And at least two parts of the four-part test for English language learners must be given in person, another issue since many students are learning remotely.

District 153 administrators didn’t get the testing waiver from the Illinois State Board of Education that they – and others across the state – were hoping for. Testing to determine students’ yearly progress must be reported to the U.S. Department of Education. 

In March 2020, when schools throughout the U.S. shut down, states were given waivers from the annual spring testing, Schaflein said. This year the request was turned down because students have been in school. In District 153, students have been learning remotely since the end of August, and 60% continue on that schedule.

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