Sept. 3 (UPI) -- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told state leaders Thursday that the Trump administration plans to enforce federal standardized testing requirements for K-12 schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter to state school chiefs, DeVos said states should not expect the Education Department to grant waivers for federal testing requirements as it did this spring after schools abruptly closed as the coronavirus began to spread throughout the country.
"That was the right call, given the limited information available about the virus at the time and the need to stop its spread as well as the practical realities limiting the administration of assessments," DeVos wrote. "However it is now our expectation that states will, in the interest of students, administer summative assessments during the 2020-2021 school year, consistent with the requirements of the law and following the guidance of local health officials."
DeVos added that standardized tests remain important for measuring student achievement and school performance despite the difficulty in administering them amid the pandemic.
"If we fail to assess students, it will have a lasting effect for years to come," she wrote. "Not only will vulnerable students fall behind, but we will be abandoning the important, bipartisan reforms of the past two decades at a critical moment."
Georgia's state school superintendent, Richard Woods, condemned DeVos' decision, saying it "shows a complete disconnect" from the reality of schooling during a pandemic.
"Continuing to administer high-stakes tests during these unprecedented and uncertain times is, sadly, more about adults than the needs of students and teachers," Woods said.
Chair of the House education and labor committee Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., lead Democrat on the Senate education committee, stressed the importance of testing for students of color, students with disabilities and low-income students while saying more money must be allocated to schools to allow safe reopenings and avoid teacher layoffs.
"There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic is having severe consequences for students' growth and achievement, particularly for our most vulnerable students," said Scott. "We cannot begin to address these consequences, unless we fully understand them."