Letter To The Editor: Leaders Urged To Pursue AZ Merit Waivers For Testing Via Webcam

Dear Editor,

I write with respect to the required AzM2 and AzSCI testing for Arizona students enrolled in District and Charter Schools, (including dedicated online charter schools.) While I agree there is absolutely a need to study the impact COVID19 has had on student learning, it is unfortunate that the Arizona Department of Education has determined the tests are to be administered in-person only, with no exceptions for students with special health considerations and/or underlying conditions.

Because the only option for these families is to formally decline testing, it falsely gives the appearance these families are being uncooperative or are unwilling to test. This is unfortunate, because there are many families (like mine!) who would be more than willing to have their student complete these tests, but are not willing to put their child or family at-risk, particularly during a pandemic. Our family chose online learning for the very reason that it would allow my son, who is medically compromised, to avoid infection and exposure to illness in a classroom setting, but still afford him the opportunity to learn and participate virtually with his peers. The current testing requirements do not take into consideration those individuals who chose online learning in the first place, for reasons of medical necessity.

In his letter to education leaders, Ian Rosenblum, the acting assistant education secretary, said that while state testing should take place, he also made it clear schools should not demand the tests be taken in classrooms (or other indoor facilities) if they think it is unsafe. The letter gave permission for states to seek waivers on when they test, where they test and how long exams last. While Arizona did adopt some of these modifications, they did not seek the wavers that would have allowed students to take the exam(s) remotely via webcam. Other states, such as Idaho, are offering this option to students, which allows ALL students to participate, regardless of their circumstances.
I urge our leaders to pursue waivers for testing via webcam, so the results can be representative of ALL Arizona students—not just those who are able or willing to test in-person.

Tara Boedigheimer