President Biden is not waiving the federal requirement for school testing this year, but Chalkbeat notes an important point:

… schools won’t be held accountable for the results — and states could give shorter, remote, or delayed versions of the exams.

Federal support for education is conditioned on standardized testing, though there’s a growing belief that the tests are poor indicators of school quality or student achievement. They DO measure family circumstances. Middle-class kids do better than poor kids, with scant exceptions.

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Arkansas has said it intended to test this year regardless. It has gone so far as saying students going to school remotely must go to schools to take the tests, though some school districts are doing better than others at providing safe conditions.

The Biden decision is all the more reason for these reminders:

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Students may NOT be punished for not taking the tests.

Schools will NOT be punished for a low participation rate should many students refuse to take the tests.

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The tests are poor measures of things teachers know from the first-hand experience.

The test scores will be even more meaningless this year because of pandemic disruptions.

Will the Biden guidance alter Arkansas plans in any way? I’ve asked. So far, the plan is mostly business as usual though the education department has said that while the school report cards will continue no single-letter grade (which rests heavily on test scores) will be issued for this school year.

Kimberly Mundell of the Department responded to me and questions by Austin Bailey:

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We are reviewing the U.S. Department of Education guidance and will look to see if there are additional flexibility ideas we can incorporate in our state assessment plans; however, we already are offering several of the flexibilities listed in the document. These can be found in the communication toolkit we published a couple of weeks ago: http://adecm.arkansas.gov/ViewApprovedMemo.aspx?Id=4668.

Austin, the toolkit should answer some of your other questions. There is no parent opt-out form; however, there are no penalties for students who do not test. It’s important to note that there is no federal waiver for testing, and 80 percent of Arkansas students are attending school in-person either completely or partially through a hybrid option.