Whenever public schools in Missouri reopen, teachers will not have to worry about preparing students for state-mandated exams.
Margie Vandeven, the commissioner of education, announced Thursday the cancellation of the Missouri Assessment Program, given annually in grades 3-8, and the end-of-course exams given in high school.
"There is a time and a place for state-required assessments and now is not the time," she said in a posted video message to districts. "Effective immediately, Missouri will be canceling statewide required assessments for this school year."
She said the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will formally request a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education.
"In the meantime, rest assured that we are taking this issue off of your plates so that you can serve the needs of our children," she said.
The day before the announcement, Springfield Superintendent John Jungmann said that the district's priority was meeting the urgent needs of students and their families. To that end, the district is providing grab-and-go meals at 54 school locations.
"When reasonable heads look at what we're going through right now as schools across the country and what our families ... and teachers are experiencing, I think standardized testing should be the furthest thing from our mind," he said.
The state testing window is mid-April to early May each year. However, all of the state's school districts and charter schools are currently closed.
Early next week, teachers are expected to make contact with each student by phone or by email as they prepare to teach online and through alternative methods at the ends of the extended spring break.
"On March 30, we plan to be up and going instructionally," he said.
The Missouri State Teachers Association was among the education groups urging the state to make this change.
MSTA argued that canceling the state-mandated exams for the 2019-20 year will free up instructional time that might have been devoted to preparing for the tests.
It also stated that if the tests are given shortly after schools reopen, students likely will not be ready and the results will be meaningless.
Nixa Superintendent Gearl Loden said waiving the exams is the best decision for children.
"If you look at the situation we're in right now, the testing window is approaching and we can't tell you when we'll be back in school," he said. "This is very disruptive, not just for kids but for our teachers and our families."