Fall 2020 Testing

Fall 2020 Testing

Practical Advice on Fall End-of-Course Exams

Updated Nov 24, 2020

As Ohio’s students and educators work through the unique challenges of the 2020-2021 school year, many questions regarding state testing requirements have been raised—specifically regarding Ohio’s State Tests and end-of-course exams. These tests are required by federal and state law. No legislative action has been taken, up to this point in time, that alters these legal requirements for the 2020-2021 school year.

In October and November, most districts were able to administer the fall third grade English language arts tests to most students. Since then, many districts have either adjusted or are considering adjusting their modes of instruction and/or school calendars in response to rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in the state.

The Ohio Department of Education emphasizes that districts first and foremost should be attentive to 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 and in consultation with the local department of health. Parental determination relative to safety also should be considered and respected.

U.S. Department of Education guidance

During the early days of the pandemic and related school closures, the U.S. Department of Education 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 2019-2020 school year.

The U.S. Department of Education recently shared specific guidance clearly noting states “should not anticipate such waivers being granted again” for the 2020-2021 school year. As circumstances around the pandemic and leadership at the U.S. Department of Education are changing, the Ohio Department of Education will notify schools and districts of any changes in requirements that result from future federal guidance or legislation.

State legislation

The General Assembly is considering legislation that may impact state testing requirements. The Ohio Department of Education will communicate any changes that may result from state legislation if enacted.

Extended fall end-of-course exam window

The fall end-of-course exam window originally was scheduled to be open between Nov. 30, 2020, and Jan. 8, 2021. That window has been extended one additional week to provide more time for testing in January and now runs from Nov. 30, 2020, to Jan. 15, 2021. Districts must administer the exams within 15 consecutive school days, including makeups. Math, English language arts and biology exams are administered to meet federal law. Administration of 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.

Considerations for administering fall end-of-course exams

Based on the current status of federal and state law, districts should be making plans for students to take the relevant fall end-of-course exams. 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 about the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment-Revised (KRA-R) and Practical Advice for Fall Reading Diagnostic and Remediation Activity, districts should prioritize safety but 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 hybrid models, plans for testing likely will depend on how many days students are in a particular building. Districts offering remote instruction should consider creative options to have students on-site for relevant testing. Districts also can be flexible about test administration locations. Students need not take tests in the buildings to which they are assigned for attendance purposesi. Below are examples from three districts on how they plan to implement testing.

  • In one district, students attending remotely are being asked to contact their home schools to choose testing times within the district’s 15-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 students on Mondays during the test window and use all space in buildings to test students in smaller groups. 
Ohio’s end-of course exams have two parts, most of which are 90 minutes per part, 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.

Alternative option: Spring end-of-course exam window

Districts also could wait until the spring 2021 test administration window to complete the required assessments. Districts should gauge the potential impact of the lag between taking the course and taking the assessment, while keeping safety the priority.

Defining consecutive school days

Traditionally, “consecutive school days” has been considered as “days when school is in session.” In order to provide flexibility, the Ohio Department of Education is clarifying the 15-consecutive-school-day requirement for the fall 2020 administration. 
  • Hybrid model: In a hybrid education delivery model, 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 15 consecutive days. This flexibility may be applied to each cohort. For example, if the district has Cohort A attending school Monday and Tuesday and Cohort B attending school Thursday and Friday, with alternating Wednesdays, Cohort A may have a 15-consecutive-school-day window and Cohort B may have a separate 15-consecutive-school-day window, only counting the days where the students are physically present in the building. 
  • Remote model: Districts are encouraged to establish a 15-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 buildings to bring students in to test (for example, 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 (such as in gymnasiums, auditoriums or cafeterias) as long as the environment is appropriate for testing (quiet, no distractions); 
    • Test some students in other buildings (for example, elementary students at a middle school) when they are not being used for in-person instruction. 

Accountability impacts

At this point, participation and performance on state tests still are factors in both federal and state accountability systems. Students who are required to test but do not participate may factor into applicable measures or components on the Ohio School Report Cards. 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. As such, the Ohio Department of Education currently does not have the authority to alter these requirements.

Ohio’s school and district leaders should continue prioritizing the safety of students, employees and their communities, respecting the decisions being made by parents in response to the pandemic and making good faith efforts to meet testing requirements amid local context and conditions.


Please contact the Ohio Department of Education at statetests@education.ohio.gov for questions about Ohio's testing system. For questions on accountability, contact accountability@education.ohio.gov.

 The Test Delivery System requires that the student and test administrator are associated with the same attending school in the Test Information Distribution Engine (TIDE). For example, if a district wants to test a portion of its high school students in another building (such as a middle school gymnasium), the students still would be pre-identified to the school they attend, and the test administrator would need to be associated with the same attending school in TIDE. Test administrators can be associated with multiple schools.  

Last Modified: 1/13/2021 1:57:58 PM