ASTORIA — Students in the Astoria School District will not have to participate in state testing this year.

The federal government recently approved a request from Oregon to waive statewide assessment requirements because of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and the limited opportunities many students have had for on-site learning. However, limited testing at each grade level, starting at third grade, will be required.

If parents in the school district want their children to take the state’s Smarter Balanced assessment, they can opt in and the district will provide students with an opportunity to take the test.

The school board, however, is more concerned that students get as much class time as possible now they are back in classrooms. Astoria began the school year remotely last September and only started bringing the majority of students back to buildings in February.

"Our students have missed a large amount of in-person instruction due to COVID-19," said Grace Laman, the school board chairwoman, in a statement. "Students should be reconnecting with peers and school staff and not have to worry about a statewide assessment."

She echoed Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Department of Education, who had said in the state’s waiver request that, "This is not the time to subject families and educators to additional stressors that would be required for remote administration of summative assessments."

Instead, school district staff will use assessment data coming from the classrooms and schools themselves to work with students. State testing did not happen last year, either. The start of the pandemic and the emergency closure of schools last spring interrupted testing.

In a normal year, the school board supports the use of statewide standardized testing "to drive state and district goals," stated a resolution school board members approved at a meeting Wednesday, April 14.

But, it also noted, "state-mandated testing will require sacrificing several hours of badly-needed instruction time for most students" and the statewide assessments "do not provide data or information that individual teachers can use to inform their instruction or identify areas for remediation among their students."

Superintendent Craig Hoppes told the school board he expects to see many other school districts make a similar decision.

"I think it’s the right thing to do," he said, adding, "I think it will send a really strong message to our community."

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