By Team

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) –  As the “COVID slide” continues to affect learning gains and widen achievement gaps for students nationwide, the Florida Department of Education was moving Wednesday toward requesting a federal waiver for testing accountability measures.

The federal government requires 95 percent of Florida students in grades 3 through 8 to sit for math and English-language arts exams.

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Last month, the U.S. Department of Education invited states to request waivers.

“This flexibility will explicitly include waiving the accountability provisions relating to having a 95 percent test participation rate,” a news release from the federal agency said.

During a meeting Wednesday in Tallahassee, the State Board of Education received a presentation about the waiver issue.

“This does not waive testing, it just waives some of the federal reporting requirements, and it does not waive any state laws. So U.S. DOE has presented this opportunity. … It gives Florida the ability to focus solely on its own state laws,” said Alex Kelly, chief of staff at the Florida Department of Education.

Several members of the state board endorsed the idea of requesting a waiver.

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Board member Marva Johnson said a waiver “puts us in a good place to make sure we are accountable and compassionate.”

While state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran hasn’t been vocal about wanting a federal waiver, a department spokeswoman said the state would publish a waiver application to the U.S. Department of Education on Wednesday afternoon.

“Obviously, from today’s meeting, we’re looking very favorably at the U.S. DOE offer for states to apply for waivers of certain federal school accountability provisions. Our goal is to be as transparent as (possible) about student growth and ways to support students moving forward — by taking public comment,” Florida Department of Education spokeswoman Taryn Fenske wrote in an email to The News Service of Florida.

The state is required to give the public two weeks to provide input on the matter.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration and Corcoran appear to be forging ahead with a plan to keep standardized testing in place for the current school year.

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