The coronavirus has already shut down most Maine schools for at least two weeks, but the virus could also have longer-term impacts on students’ education, including by canceling or postponing the annual state assessment and some college admissions exams.

Maine students in grades 3 through 8 were scheduled to take the eMPowerME test starting this week, but several districts have had to rearrange their plans because of the virus.

Federal law requires states to administer annual assessments of their students and the results are one factor used in determining the flow of federal education funds.

The U.S. Department of Education said last week however, it is considering one-year waivers of the exams for schools impacted by the “extraordinary circumstances” of the coronavirus.

More than 41 million students nationwide are currently out of school, according to Education Week. Several school districts in Maine have transitioned to remote learning for a two-week period running through the end of the month.

The testing window in which schools can offer the assessment runs through April 10 in Maine, but Department of Education spokeswoman Kelli Deveaux said even if schools re-open before then it’s unclear whether the test could be administered.

“The level of anxiety people are facing now would not make that an optimal testing time for kids,” Deveaux said. “We want schools and kids to focus on the health and well-being of themselves and one another. This test, while important federally, is not a priority.”

She said Maine is not alone in seeking a waiver and guidance from the federal government regarding assessments. “We are one of many states in which all or a majority of schools have closed,” Deveaux said.

The virus has also resulted in the cancellation of some SAT and SAT subject test dates.

The College Board, which administers the test, has announced cancellations of the May 2 SAT and SAT subject tests as well as make-up exams scheduled for March 28. The June 6 exams have not been cancelled.

“College Board will provide future additional SAT testing opportunities for students as soon as possible in place of canceled administrations,” the board said on its website. “We’ll be as flexible as possible to give students the best chance to show their skills and stay on the path to college.”

The AP, or advanced placement, program, which is also run through the board, is currently working on developing resources to support student learning through extended closures, including the possibility of a solution to allow students to test at home if the situation has not changed by May, the currently scheduled exam period.

The SAT also serves as the Maine state assessment for high school juniors, and that test is presently scheduled for April 14.

Jerome White, director of media relations and external communications for the College Board, said in an email Wednesday the board is working with local partners and will “soon share information about weekday school-based SAT administrations this spring.”

Right now most school districts are focused on more important questions than the state assessment, said Steve Bailey, executive director of the Maine School Management Association.

“They’re trying to maintain continuity of learning and making sure students can receive meals,” he said. “The level of importance of (the test) has certainly dropped off pretty dramatically in terms of how it’s used this year.”


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