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National math and reading tests in U.S. postponed until 2022 due to coronavirus

(Reuters) - National math and reading tests used to track U.S. students’ knowledge in those subjects are being postponed until 2022 due to the coronavirus outbreak, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) said.

FILE PHOTO: Students at Louise Elementary School gather in the playground for a ceremony to reopen the swings, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Louise, Texas, U.S., November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Go Nakamura

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as “the nation’s report card,” previously had been planned to be held at the beginning of 2021 for hundreds of thousands of fourth and eighth graders in the United States.

“I have determined that NCES cannot at this time conduct a national-level assessment in a manner with sufficient validity and reliability to meet the mandate of the law”, NCES Commissioner James Woodworth said on Wednesday.

“I was obviously concerned about sending outsiders into schools and possibly increasing the risk of COVID transmission”, he said.

The NAEP assessments are a key indicator of educational progress in the United States with trends going back decades.

Woodworth said a change in operations and lack of access for students to be assessed means that NAEP would not be able to produce estimates of students’ knowledge when compared to either past or future national or state estimates.

Postponing the tests until 2022 will allow time for conditions to stabilize, the NCES commissioner said.

If the assessments were held in 2021, it would have cost tens of millions of dollars, he said, adding the delay allows states time to conduct their own state tests in spring 2021.

The leaders of the National Assessment Governing Board and the Council of Chief State School Officers supported the move.

The delay in the national tests makes having state tests in 2021 “a moral imperative,” according to Representative Bobby Scott, a Democrat and chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, and Senator Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also supported proceeding with state assessments next spring and said in a letter to Scott that Congress would need to sign off on postponing the national testing for a year as NAEP is federally mandated.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; editing by Diane Craft