Keep High School Students Safe: Waive End of Course (EOC) exams

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November 17, 2020

Attention: Eric Davis, Chair, North Carolina State Board of Education

Mark Johnson, North Carolina Superintendent of Public Schools

Roy Cooper, North Carolina Governor

North Carolina General Assembly

On behalf of students, North Carolina Families for School Testing Reform urges the NC State Board of Education, Superintendent of Public Schools Mark Johnson, and Governor Roy Cooper to act immediately to waive the requirement for students to take high school End of Course (EOC) exams in Math 1, Math 3, English 2, and Biology and Career and Technical Education (CTE) assessments for the fall 2020 semester. We also request that the state apply for a waiver from the United States Department of Education for the in-person testing requirement associated with these and other federally mandated, standardized tests. 

Bringing children back into buildings as COVID-19 cases continue to rise demonstrates a violation of public schools’ obligation to protect and act in the best interest of children. Available data suggest that virus conditions in schools mirror those in the community at large. We are particularly concerned with bringing older students into our buildings for the sole purpose of completing EOC exams when our own public health officials have repeatedly stated that adolescents contract and spread COVID-19 at the same rate as adults. 

This year, our high school students have worked under challenging circumstances and without equitable access to resources. Students and families require flexibility as we continue to grapple with the realities of this public health crisis. Many of the families who chose remote schooling did so because their child or members of their household are at risk of complications from COVID-19. With nearly 5,000 deaths so far in North Carolina, this pandemic has impacted students and families across the state. Imagine that you are a high school student who has been fully remote since March 16; one who has been working hard this semester. Imagine that you have lost a relative to COVID-19; that you have a sibling or other household member who is high risk. Now imagine being faced with the impossible choice to either fail your classes by choosing safety or go into an environment that puts you or your family at risk. Forcing students to choose between failing a high school class and entering a high risk situation is a trauma that we can choose not to inflict.  

Much has been said about the damaging impacts of COVID-19 on the social and emotional health of our students. The State Board of Education led with the prioritization of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) in the spring 2020 grading policy.  We, the undersigned, ask that you continue to lead with similar acts of compassion in response to the EOC exam requirement by waiving requirement that students complete the EOC exams for the fall 2020 semester. If not a full waiver, we request a waiver of the in-person testing requirement and the 20% of grade requirements. If nothing else, we respectfully request a waiver of the 20% of grade requirement. 

Finally, we also request legislative action to create a standardized procedure allowing North Carolina students and families to opt out of assessments for the 2020-2021 academic year.

NC Families for School Testing Reform