Third Grade English Language Arts and End-of-Course Exams

Third Grade English Language Arts and End-of-Course Exams

Practical Advice on Fall Third Grade English Language Arts (ELA) Test and End-of-Course Exams

As Ohio’s students and educators work through the unique challenges of this school year, many questions regarding state testing requirements have been raised—specifically regarding the Ohio State Tests (OSTs) and end-of-course (EOC) exams. These tests are required by federal and state law and, at this point in time, are still required for the 2020-21 school year. As such, there are important considerations for schools to be aware of as they plan to safely test students.

U.S. Department of Education (USED) Guidance

 During the early days of the pandemic and related school closures, USED allowed states to seek one-year waivers from the Every Student Succeeds Act's testing and accountability requirements. The Ohio General Assembly subsequently passed emergency legislation canceling the spring 2020 administration of Ohio's State Tests. Accordingly, the Ohio Department of Education sought and received a federal waiver for the 2019-20 school year.
USED has recently shared specific guidance clearly noting that states “should not anticipate such waivers being granted again” for the 2020-21 school year.

State Legislation

 The General Assembly is considering legislation that may impact state testing requirements – including short-term flexibility regarding the fall third grade English language arts (ELA) test. The Department will communicate any changes that result from state legislation if and when it is enacted.

Considerations for Administering Fall State Tests

 Based on the current status of federal and state law, districts should be making plans for students to take the relevant state tests in the fall. Due to technology and test security requirements, there is no option to remotely administer state tests. All testing must be done in person with a test administrator who is an employee of the district with a license, certificate or permit issued by the Ohio Department of Education.
Similar to information shared  on the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment-Revised (KRA-R), and Practical Advice for Fall Reading Diagnostic and Remediation Activity, the Department emphasizes that districts first and foremost should be concerned about the safety of students and staff. Assessments should occur only if they can be administered safely. Safety may be determined locally at the student, teacher, building, district or county level depending on the circumstances. Districts should put forth a good faith effort to communicate with parents and students about the importance of assessments and the requirement to conduct testing on site.
For districts operating with a hybrid model, plans for testing likely will depend on how many days students are in the building. Districts offering remote instruction should be considering creative options to have students on-site for relevant testing. Below are examples from three districts on how they plan to implement fall testing.
  • In one district, students attending remotely are being asked to contact their home schools to choose a testing time within the district’s five-day window. The plan is to test the students in socially distanced classrooms.
  • Another district is planning to bus remote learners (not during the normal route) to school on Wednesday and Thursday to test. These students will be tested in the gymnasium where they can practice safe social distancing.
  • One district currently has “remote Mondays” where all students, even those attending in the hybrid model, are at home. The district plans to bring in the third graders and utilize the buildings to test their students in smaller groups.
Ohio’s State Tests have two parts, and districts usually split the tests up over two separate days. Districts may choose to continue this practice (if students are in the building more than once per week) or they may choose to administer both parts of the test in the same day.

Fall Third Grade ELA Administration 

The fall administration of the third grade ELA test is a requirement in state law, not federal law. The fall grade 3 test window originally scheduled for Oct. 19-30 has been extended for one additional week and will now occur Oct. 19 – Nov. 6. Schools will continue to select five consecutive school days to administer the tests.
Traditionally, “consecutive school days” has been considered as “days when school is in session.” This application was straightforward prior to the pandemic when schools were operating five days per week, in person. Districts have expressed challenges with plans to assess cohorts of hybrid students and students learning remotely, in what was traditionally five consecutive days. In order to provide flexibility, the Department is clarifying the five consecutive school day requirement for the fall 2020 administration. 
  • Hybrid Models: In hybrid models, a district may determine that a “consecutive school day” could apply when students are physically present in the building. Days when students are attending remotely will not count toward the five consecutive days. This flexibility may be applied to each cohort. For example, if the district has a Cohort A attending school Monday and Tuesday, and Cohort B attending school Thursday and Friday, with alternating Wednesdays, Cohort A may have a five consecutive school day window (for instance, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and the following Monday and Tuesday), and Cohort B may also have a separate five consecutive school day window, only counting the days where the students are physically present in the building. 
  • Remote Models: Districts are encouraged to establish a five consecutive day window to test remote students to the extent possible. Students who are attending remotely will only have days counted when they are in the buildings to test. This window may be different from students attending in-person or hybrid. Schools may choose to: 
    • Schedule appointment times for students to come in and test, either individually or in socially distanced groups. 
    • Utilize days when other students may not be in the building to bring students in to test (e.g., if there is one day per week when all students are virtual, or if the district is fully virtual). 
    • Use alternative locations that may allow for students to test in larger groups but remain physically distant (e.g., gymnasiums, auditoriums, cafeterias) as long as the environment is appropriate for testing (e.g., quiet, no distractions). 
    • Test some students in other buildings (e.g., at a middle school) when they are not being used for in-person instruction. 

Fall End-of-Course Exams 

The fall end-of-course exam window is scheduled for 15 consecutive school days, including makeups, between Nov. 30, 2020 and Jan. 8, 2021. Math, ELA and biology exams are administered to meet federal law, and districts should plan on administering the tests to meet federal requirements. Administration of end-of-course exams in American History and American Government is required by state law. At this point, state law still includes end-of-course exams for graduation requirements.
Districts also could wait until the spring 2021 administration to complete the required assessments. Districts should gauge the potential impact of the lag between taking the course and taking the assessment.

Accountability Impacts 

At this point, participation and performance on state tests are still factors in both federal and state accountability systems. Students who are required to test, but who do not, may factor into applicable report card measures or components. While there is potential for temporary waivers from state or federal accountability consequences, current law requires both testing and accountability to be applied to the current school year.
Ohio’s school and district leaders should continue prioritizing the safety of students, employees and the community, respect the decisions being made by parents in response to the pandemic and make good faith efforts to meet testing requirements amid local context and conditions.


Please contact the Ohio Department of Education at for questions about Ohio's testing system. For questions on accountability, please contact

Last Modified: 10/2/2020 3:45:11 PM