Legislative Update: New Guidance on Assessments and Next Step in Senate Confirmation


Legislative Update: New Guidance on Assessments and Next Step in Senate Confirmation

This week, new guidance was released on assessments during the pandemic. Read below to learn more about the information and flexibilities that were detailed, as well as the next step in confirming a new U.S. Secretary of Education, updates to StudentAid.gov and a resource on performance targets. 
ED Releases Guidance on Assessments During the Pandemic
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced new guidance to states that emphasizes the need to administer assessments this year, as well as the accompanying flexibilities given the major disruptions facing schools. In the announcement, Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Ian Rosenblum stated that “the Department of Education is committed to supporting all states in assessing student learning during the pandemic to help target resources and support to the students with the greatest needs. We also recognize that at a time when everything in our education system is different, there need to be different ways that states can administer state tests like moving them to the fall so that precious in-person learning time this year can be spent on instruction. Balancing these priorities is the best approach.”
Flexibilities to states include: 

  • Extending the testing window and moving assessments to the summer or fall; 
  • Giving the assessment remotely, where feasible; and 
  • Shortening the state assessment, to make testing more feasible to implement and prioritize in-person learning time. 

In the announcement, the Department recognizes that states may need additional assessment flexibility and is prepared to work with individual states based on unique needs. 
ED is also permitting states to request a waiver for the Every Student Succeeds Act’s (ESSA) accountability provisions for having a 95 percent test participation rate. The full letter from ED to the Chief State School Officers can be viewed here
Senate Moves Forward with U.S. Secretary of Education Confirmation
This afternoon the Senate voted 66-32 to invoke cloture on the nomination of Dr. Miguel Cardona for U.S. Secretary of Education. Dr. Cardona’s nomination will now be brought to a full Senate vote for confirmation. This vote is likely to take place next week. 
ED Enhances Entrance and Exit Counseling on StudentAid.gov
This week Federal Student Aid shared updates to the resources on StudentAid.gov, which includes entrance and exit counseling. Modules on entrance counseling have now been integrated into the College Scorecard. This will help individuals understand their projected debt and salary so that informed decisions can be made. The new exit counseling process includes details on personalized loans and repayment options. There is also a tool that individuals can use to simulate the outcome of different repayment plans.   
Advance CTE Shares New Resource on Revising Performance Targets 
Advance CTE and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) created a new resource that provides an overview of four steps states can take to decide whether and how they might revise their performance targets under the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) as a result of the pandemic: 

  1. Quantify the impact; 
  2. Explore options; 
  3. Revise targets; and
  4. Engage the public. 

The COVID-19 pandemic introduced uncertainty into the Perkins V performance accountability system. Under the “unanticipated circumstances” provision of Perkins V, the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education is allowing states to adjust their state determined performance levels (SDPLs) in light of the ongoing crisis. You can view the full report on Mitigating Unanticipated Circumstances: Resetting Perkins V State Determined Performance Levels During the COVID-19 Pandemic here
Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy