Standardized testing in Alabama will not be canceled because of the pandemic this year. Some students started taking the tests last week while other districts started testing on Monday.
State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey says this year's tests are more crucial than ever as they work to see how big the coronavirus learning gap really is.
"It's very important we get a solid baseline foundational data for our students and where they are performing. We believe it's important to gather that data this year more than ever," Mackey said.
So far, he's seen some unfinished learning, where students didn't get to finish last year's learning during the current school year, but he knows the impact goes beyond that. That's why they're planning other assessments in the summer and fall to further figure out where gaps exist.
School districts across the state are also working on their own plans to close the learning gap.
"What we're asking is for each district to look at their community, and understand where they are and what they need to be doing going forward," Mackey said.
Some districts have already announced some of their plans.
For example, Birmingham City Schools is trying to revise their school calendar to start school earlier to prevent a bigger gap. Madison City Schools says it's using federal funding to add more summer reading and math programs to address the problem. Huntsville City Schools has an Academic Support Task Force that is working on developing that plan. The group is currently getting feedback from teachers.
"Plans are going to look different in different parts of the state," Mackey said.
However, he says all schools' 30-month plans will have the same goal.
"To move forward, accelerate learning and get back on track," Mackey explained.
School districts have until June 1 to submit their plans to the state.
School funding is not dependent on these assessment tests. However, it could be impacted by the yearly school report card.
The state department of education says it is working on an accountability waiver for schools because of the pandemic. However, that waiver will not stop schools from testing students to get information on where students are at. This waiver is expected to be released by the end of the month.