In an article in Louisiana Weekly, it was revealed Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards had proclaimed a waiver for standardized testing (LEAP) state-wide, as well as A-F letter grades and attendance requirements for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year due to the increase in COVID-19 cases.
Expected by local school leaders to promote student mental health and well-being by unburdening them of concerns of grades, attendance and schoolwork, this decision also allows schools to work to explore online learning in these rapidly changing times. The U.S. Department of Education will have to approve some of the waivers, with Edwards noting, “While I’m going to suspend state law, those suspensions are really only effective when we get the waiver.” He indicated that he did not think this would be a problem and that he expected that other states would be seeking the same suspension of requirements on assessment.
Edwards stressed the need for swift, sweeping changes, stating, “The bottom line is this, based on all the information we have, we have two weeks to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and we can only influence that if we are doing what we are being asked to do. Please understand, this fight against coronavirus is going to last longer than two weeks. We don’t want to look like Italy two weeks from now.” This decision to waive LEAP testing comes after the Governor announced a month-long closure of schools earlier in the month of March to attempt to slow the spread of the virus in The Pelican State.
Several schools nationwide are quickly adapting to closures and the need for online/remote educational options. California’s Governor Gavin Newsom relayed that “few, if any” schools would be reopening in spring 2020.
Knowing families are still invested in their children’s education, schools in the state continue to offer online and take-home learning for students, even with the waived mandates on LEAP testing, attendance and grading.
In New Orleans, fifth-grade teacher at Morris Jeff Community School, Matthew Tuttle, starts morning classes daily with his students in a live video conference. He relayed, “There’s something to be said with continuing instruction in the face of complete changes of routine, lifestyle and everything. There is something to knowing that your teacher is still going to be there, if by phone, or computer screen. That is something kids can hold on to in an unpredictable time.” Tuttle feels that the waivers will allow for teachers to focus on what really matters, educating students without the added pressure of attendance, testing and grading. The waivers are a relief on both students and teachers in these unprecedented circumstances.
Crescent City Schools CEO Kate Mehok said their schools’ distance-learning plan was changing by the day. Currently, they are focused on ensuring students needing computer, phone and internet access have it. “Even though we’ve not officially closed schools for more than just four weeks I think we anticipate this could last longer. Any decision we would make to end school, my guess is we would make that decision together. I am open to hearing from others and working with the district and Orleans to make sure we’re doing the right thing for kids. So whatever that is, I imagine we’ll do it together,” she said.
In a statement from NOLA Public Schools, the district “is working with our partners to assess how this decision will impact the 2019-2020 school year as the situation develops over the coming months.”
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