Statewide assessments provided critical information to support the education of all students, including those with disabilities, before COVID-19 shuttered school buildings and disrupted learning. Those assessments are now essential for capturing the impact of instructional loss and helping us move forward. The pandemic has placed tremendous strain on schools and families throughout the nation, and students with disabilities are among those who have struggled the most. Because of those struggles, educators need state assessments to understand the impact the pandemic has had on these students. Only with that information can educators ensure that plans to address instructional loss are accurately connected to students’ needs.
We appreciate that the U.S. Department of Education recognizes the importance of these assessments, and we applaud the Department for not allowing local assessments to replace the statewide assessments. That replacement would cause immense confusion and likely violate the civil and educational rights of students with disabilities, given that the vast majority of districts lack assessments designed for and accessible to all students with disabilities. While we understand the need for some very limited and nuanced flexibility in the wake of COVID-19, we urge the U.S. Department of Education to exercise great caution in authorizing any state waivers. States must continue to be required to capture key assessment and school climate data—as required by the law—so they can hold districts and schools to high standards and assure resources are targeted toward supporting all students, including students with disabilities.