Statewide Assessment Testing
Glass said he is disappointed in a Feb. 22 announcement by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) that requires Kentucky to administer statewide assessments for the 2020-2021 school year.
Many states, including Kentucky, had asked for a waiver of the testing requirement due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Glass said he wishes states would be allowed more flexibility on whether to hold testing, but that the decision appears to offer a window for waiving accountability provisions. There also are some options for flexibility on how the testing is offered, and KDE is researching those, he said.
KDE has released two guidance documents in anticipation of offering statewide tests this spring. The “COVID-19 Participation in Spring 2021 Kentucky State Testing,” includes flexible test windows, a reduction in the time for assessment administration, where possible, and an option to bring in small groups of full-time virtual students for in-person assessment. The “Kentucky Summative Assessment Administration Guidance 2020-2021 School Year,” provides specific guidelines for test administration, test accommodations, safety expectations and staff training.
Use of Retired Teachers
Many districts have sought advice on using retired or soon-to-be-retired teachers to help cover for absent colleagues during the pandemic. Beau Barnes, deputy executive director and general counsel for the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System (KTRS), addressed those questions.
“Retired and retiring teachers certainly can be used in the classroom, but there are limitations,” he said.
Federal tax law prohibits any prearrangement between a retiring employee and their employer for that person to return to work, Barnes said. To avoid trouble with the IRS, retired teachers must take a 12-month break before returning to teach full time in their previous district, or a three-month break before returning part time to that district or full-time in a different district, he said.
None of the federal restrictions have been eased due to COVID-19, Barnes said. There may, however, be advantages for teachers and districts in using staff during the summer months.
Barnes urged people to contact him at KTRS with questions or for further details.
COVID-19 Guidance Compilation
On Feb. 22, KDE released a searchable 136-page manual containing the latest versions of all of its guidance documents for schools and districts on operations during COVID-19.
The “KDE COVID-19 Guidance 2.0” includes all guidance released from May 2020 to the end of January 2021, said Kelly Foster, KDE associate commissioner in the Office of Continuous Improvement and Support. There are not any substantial changes to the guidance in this document.
“We just put everything in one place where you could search for it, rather than having to go through the individual documents on the web,” she said.
The Guidance 2.0 document can be found in the reopening section of KDE’s COVID-19 webpage. There also are individual links to any guidance released since Feb. 1, Foster said.
Broadband Speed Testing
Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman urged superintendents to promote the Kentucky Broadband Initiative Speed Test in their communities.
“It literally takes 30 seconds; it’s completely anonymous,” she said.
Providing better broadband service has been a high priority for the Beshear administration from the start, but the state won’t know where to focus its efforts without knowing the existing weak points for service, Coleman said.
The results will be used to build a map of service levels. If people don’t have internet service at home, they can log on at a friend’s house or local business, enter their home address, and specify that they don’t have home internet service, Coleman said.