SAT test centers begin to cancel. Will Florida call off spring testing?

The federal government has suggested it would be open to waivers of its annual assessment requirement.
Several SAT testing sites around Florida are closing because of the coronavirus.
Several SAT testing sites around Florida are closing because of the coronavirus. [ JOE RAEDLE | Getty Images/TNS ]
Published March 13, 2020|Updated March 13, 2020

Worries about the spread of coronavirus have prompted a growing number of states to call off school. The goal is to keep large numbers of children from gathering in what could become germ incubators.

It should come as no surprise that similar concerns have arisen regarding national SAT testing, which is scheduled to take place Saturday. It’s also prompted questions about annual state testing slated to begin the first week of April.

The College Board, which runs the college entrance exam, has left it to local health and education officials whether to hold the assessment as planned or call it off.

“Nobody is better prepared than they are to make decisions about test administrations in their areas,” the organization stated in a release issued late Thursday.

Already, a dozen Florida locations including Tarpon Springs High in Pinellas County, Springstead High in Hernando County and East Bay High in Hillsborough County have canceled the exam. Some have offered alternative sites, while others have not.

Registered test takers can monitor the status of their exam on the College Board’s test center closing website, which is regularly updated. If the test does not go on as planned, the group says students can receive a refund and sign up for a future SAT.

The next scheduled dates are May 2 and June 6.

As coronavirus closes schools, a growing number of educators, observers and others have also asked whether states will continue to require students to sit for their annual spring accountability tests.

“There are plenty of reasons to question the high stakes use of these tests in any year, but one thing is clear—this year, they will produce no useful data,” national education blogger Peter Greene writes in Forbes.

Among his concerns: Long breaks will interrupt learning in advance of the exams. Even in communities where schools don’t close, he continued, the virus will disrupt normal learning.

The federal government, which requires regular testing as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, issued a guidance on Thursday indicating that the issue is under consideration. Even though it frowns on not holding the assessments, the U.S. Department of Education stated the coronavirus might lead to an exception.

“Due to the unique circumstances that may arise as a result of COVID-19, such as a school closing during the entire testing window, it may not be feasible for a State to administer some or all of its assessments” the department wrote, “in which case the Department would consider a targeted one-year waiver of the assessment requirements for those schools impacted by the extraordinary circumstances.”

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Florida education commissioner Richard Corcoran has told the Tampa Bay Times that the state has laws in place that would allow for testing waivers if the situation warrants. The state had to consider just such a situation a year ago, when Bay County school officials asked for testing consideration following a lengthy time off because of Hurricane Michael.

But the state education department isn’t making any predeterminations on issues that might be impacted by the illness, spokeswoman Audrey Walden said via email. Several superintendents said the department has encouraged them to continue “business as usual” as long as possible.

“Given that the impact of instructional hours missed due to COVID-19 is yet to be determined, the FDOE is refraining from making any decisions related to missed instructional hours until long term impacts can be realized,” Walden wrote.

The department continues to provide updates and information on its coronavirus response on its website.