Spring 2021 Testing

Spring 2021 Testing

As Ohio’s students and educators work through the unique challenges of the 2020-2021 school year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many questions regarding state testing requirements have been raised—specifically regarding Ohio’s State Tests and end-of-course exams. Although these tests are required by federal and state law, in recognition of the impact the pandemic is having on education, the Ohio General Assembly has granted flexibility for the spring 2021 test administration. Flexibilities include extending test windows and making the American history test optional for the current school year. Specific statutory provisions are outlined below. 

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In October and November 2020, most districts were able to administer the fall third grade English language arts test to most students. Districts also were able to administer fall end-of-course tests to many high school students. During times of change and pandemic-related uncertainties, reliable information and quality supports are more important than ever. Districts and schools are using their own district-level data and information to act on student-centric decisions to drive school or district improvement. Data also is key to unlocking many pieces of the equity puzzle. The Feb. 22, 2021, letter from the U.S. Department of Education emphasized the importance of assessment and accountability in advancing educational equity, using student learning data to target supports for students with the greatest needs and providing parents and guardians information on how their children are doing. State-level data, including data from state tests, can provide insight into statewide trends and phenomena that can help inform state policymaking and action. The Ohio Department of Education recently published “Data Insights: How the Pandemic is Affecting the 2020-2021 School Year.” This new webpage includes fall 2020 student enrollment and assessment data, as well as multiple resources educators and families can use to support students.  

As districts prepare for spring testing, the Department 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 levels, depending on the circumstances and in consultation with the local department of health. Parental determination relative to safety also should be considered and respected. 

Many districts are working to return to in-person education and have expressed concerns regarding students being required to test shortly after returning. The Department understands this concern and encourages schools and districts to prioritize students becoming acclimated to in-person education by taking advantage of the flexibility in the testing windows. State testing windows already have significant built-in flexibility, which provides schools and districts discretion in scheduling. For example, while some districts traditionally begin testing early in the window, others have decided to begin testing later in April. Some districts are adjusting their schedules away from separate subject area windows to overlapping schedules to reduce the overall amount of testing days. Recently passed state legislation expands on that flexibility. 

U.S. Department of Education Guidance 

During the early days of the pandemic and the related school closures, the U.S. Department of Education allowed states to seek one-year waivers from the Every Student Succeeds Act's (ESSA) 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. 

In September 2020, the U.S. Department of Education shared guidance clearly noting states “should not anticipate such waivers being granted again” for the 2020-2021 school year. Subsequently (October 2020), the U.S. Department of Education provided states with some limited one-year technical flexibilities related to federal accountability and school improvement support requirements. Ohio submitted this one-year ESSA Addendum opportunity in mid-February.

With the new federal administration in place, the U.S. Department of Education released an additional opportunity to fully waive the accountability and school identification requirements for the 2020-2021 school year provided states and districts meet specific data reporting requirements (including data on chronic absenteeism and student access to devices and connectivity). In March 2021, the Ohio General Assembly passed legislation requiring the Ohio Department of Education to seek this federal waiver. The Ohio Department of Education will share the proposed accountability waiver for public feedback in early April and submit it to the U.S. Department of Education later in the spring.

Ohio’s State Tests 

The Department previously announced extensions of the test administration windows for Ohio’s State Tests. The recent state legislation further extends several of the test windows for spring testing.

English Language Arts

  • For both paper and online tests, the spring 2021 English language arts test window opened March 22.
  • The paper administration window of the grade 3 English language arts test closes April 23.
  • The paper administration window of the grades 4 through high school English language arts tests closes April 30.
  • The online administration window of the grades 3 through high school English language arts tests closes May 7.

Mathematics, Science and Social Studies

  • For both paper and online tests, the spring 2021 mathematics, science and social studies test administration window opens March 29.
  • The paper administration closes May 14.
  • The online administration closes May 21.


The new state legislation makes the American history end-of-course test optional for the 2020-2021 school year only. School districts, community schools and chartered nonpublic schools are not required to administer the assessment this year.

As some students may need the American history end-of-course test to fulfill the Citizenship Seal requirements, the Department strongly recommends that districts make this test available for students who wish to take it, especially students outside the 11th or 12th grade who may not use course grade substitution for this purpose. Districts also may choose to continue to administer this test to all students enrolled in U.S. history courses for 2020-2021, but it is not required. Students also may take the test during a subsequent administration.


House Bill 67 did not change requirements for the American government end-of-course assessment; it remains a required test for 2020-2021.


The Department has received several questions regarding the continuation of the geometry end-of-course test as a required assessment for accountability purposes. Responses to frequently asked questions on this topic can be found on the Department’s website.


The combination of changes to law regarding assessments and the cancellation of state tests in the 2019-2020 school year has resulted in questions about which tests accelerated middle grades students should take. To help educators determine which tests to administer, the Department posted information about test administration for accelerated students.


The new legislation changes the score reporting deadline for the grade 3 English language arts test from June 15 to June 28. Student performance results for the other grades and subject areas tests, with the exception of late returns or breach forms, will be accessible to districts by June 30.


A student who fails to take a required test must have a test record reported with the appropriate Score Not Reported Reason. Districts should choose the ”best” reason that explains why a student failed to take a test from the list located in the Assessment Record section of the EMIS manual. Please refer to record number FA235 for more information.


The Department also has developed two other resources that address the impacts of House Bill 67 on students meeting graduation requirements. For more information about the new graduation pathways offered as a result of House Bill 67, please review information from the Graduation Requirements team (coming soon to the Department’s website).

If students in 11th or 12th grade choose to take the American history end-of-course test, they may use the better score of their course grade or the end-of-course test score. For more information about the course grade substitution available to students in 11th and 12th grades, please review information from the Graduation Requirements team (coming soon to the Department’s website).


The new legislation specifies that students participating in the Educational Choice Scholarship Program, Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program or Pilot Project (Cleveland) Scholarship Program may apply to renew their scholarships for the 2021-2022 school year regardless of whether they took the American history end-of-course exam in the 2020-2021 school year.

Continuing law specifies that a student who receives a state scholarship will remain eligible for that scholarship and may continue to receive that scholarship in subsequent school years if the student meets certain eligibility requirements. One of those requirements is that the student take all required state assessments unless otherwise excused.

For other questions on EdChoice, please contact EdChoice@education.ohio.gov.


Based on the current status of federal and state law, districts are planning for students to take the relevant spring Ohio’s State Tests and end-of-course exams. Due to technology and test security requirements, there is no option to remotely administer state tests. All testing must be conducted 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. Districts should prioritize safety while putting 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 purposes.1 Fall 2020 testing generally went smoothly because schools and districts were creative and innovative in finding ways to safely and efficiently facilitate testing.  

Below are examples from three districts regarding 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 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.


Traditionally, “consecutive school days” has been considered to mean “days when school is in session.” In order to provide flexibility, the Department is clarifying the 15-consecutive-school-day requirement for the spring 2021 test administration
  • Hybrid model: In a hybrid 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 when the students are present physically 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 have days counted only 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.  


Historically, test windows have been set at a district level and applied to all buildings within that district. While the Department encourages districts to continue this practice, districts experiencing pandemic-related situations that may impact this policy (such as quarantines affecting one or multiple classrooms or buildings, building closures) are permitted to exercise flexibility to ensure students have an opportunity to test. Questions regarding this flexibility should be directed to the Office of Assessment at statetests@education.ohio.gov


The recent state legislation permits districts to extend their testing as needed within the state testing window. While the Department encourages districts to complete testing within their set 15-day windows, should a district need additional school days to test their students, that is permissible (i.e., schools may go beyond 15 consecutive school days to complete testing, if necessary). All testing must be completed by the last day of the state’s applicable test windows.


Ohio English Language Proficiency Assessment (OELPA) 

The Ohio English Language Proficiency Assessment (OELPA) is critical to the services schools must provide English learners. The Department is announcing some changes for this year’s administration to support schools in meeting their obligation of annually assessing all English learners’ English language proficiency with the OELPA. The changes include the following:

  • OELPA Test Window Extension. The test window for the OELPA was originally scheduled for Feb. 1-March 26, 2021. The OELPA test window is extended by four weeks and will now take place Feb. 1-April 23. OELPA can be administered any time during the test window. Districts should begin testing early in the test window to ensure students can be tested before the test window closes.  
  • OELPA Speaking Test Administration. The Department will allow districts to administer the 2021 OELPA speaking test to groups of students instead of requiring 1:1 administration of that domain. When scheduling administrations, districts should consider that students taking the speaking test will speak their responses aloud. To maintain test validity and security, the speaking test must be administered so students cannot hear one another and recordings do not pick up others’ voices. Thus, districts should test students in large, quiet spaces and/or in groups as small as the test window and scheduling allow. The Department recommends that, if possible, schools administer the speaking test one-to-one, with one student and one test administrator. 

As a reminder, the following flexibilities are available to districts administering the OELPA:  

  • Districts may schedule the four OELPA domain tests (reading, writing, listening and speaking) in any order; there is no prescribed order of administration.  
  • Districts may schedule the domain tests one per day or multiple domain tests per day. If students take multiple domain tests in one day, districts should allow for enough time for each test to be started and completed in the same day.  

The Department has received several questions about presumptive English learners and the OELPA. Presumptive English learners, students who are presumed to be English learners because they have not taken the Ohio English Language Proficiency Screener (OELPS), should be administered the OELPA. Presumptive English learners are English learners, and, per federal guidance, districts are to include such students in the annual English language proficiency assessment. Ideally, districts will administer the OELPS to presumptive English learners before administering the OELPA; however, an inability to administer the OELPS before the OELPA does not affect an English learner’s eligibility or requirement to take the OELPA. Districts may use the results of the OELPA to affirm the fact the student is not proficient and therefore remains an English learner or exit the student as proficient if the student scores proficient (with OELPA scores of fours and fives in all non-exempted domains). 

ACT Testing 

Additional flexibility for spring 2021 allows districts to administer the ACT during any of the paper or online testing windows as specified below: 

  • Window 1:
    • Paper Testing – Feb. 23, 2021 
    • Online Testing – Feb. 23-25 and March 2-4, 2021 
    • Accommodated Testing – Feb. 23-26 and March 1-5, 2021 
  • Window 2:
    • Paper Testing – March 9, 2021 
    • Online Testing – March 9-11 and March 16-18, 2021 
    • Accommodated Testing – March 9-12 and March 15-19, 2021 
  • Window 3:
    • Paper Testing – March 23, 2021 
    • Online Testing – March 23-25 and March 30-31 and April 1, 2021 
    • Accommodated Testing – March 23-26 and March 29-31 and April 1-2, 2021 

SAT Testing 

The College Board also allows SAT additional test dates for spring 2021 according to their guidelines: 

  • Paper Testing – March 3 OR Online Testing – March 3-5 
  • Paper and Online Accommodated Testing – March 3-16 
  • Paper Makeup Testing – March 24 
  • Online Makeup Testing – March 24-26 


  • Paper Testing – April 13 OR Online Testing – April 13-15 
  • Paper and Online Accommodated Testing – April 13-26 
  • Paper Makeup Testing – April 27 
  • Online Makeup Testing – April 27-29 

Flexible SAT testing dates follow: 

  • Paper Testing – March 24, April 13 and April 27 
  • Online Testing – March 24-26, April 13-15 and April 27-29 

Assessment for Dropout Prevention and Recovery Programs 

Renaissance Learning has been awarded the contract for administering the norm-referenced assessments required by Ohio Revised Code section 3314.017(C)(4) to determine growth for Dropout Prevention and Recovery Programs. Renaissance Learning’s Star Reading and Math tests will be administered in two windows this spring. Schools should aim to test as many students as possible in both administrations.  

  • First Window: Feb. 16-March 26 
  • Second Window: April 12-May 28 

Per House Bill 409, the Ohio School Report Cards will be published in fall 2021 with all available data to be used for review and improvement planning, but there will be no ratings for those schools receiving the dropout prevention and recovery report card. Additionally, the demotion for test participation that is applied to the Progress component will not apply this year in the absence of ratings.  
The results from the test will be used to calculate student growth from this school year and, more importantly, will provide baseline performance data for teachers to use to support students. This data also will inform growth measures in future years. 

Accountability and Report Card Impacts 

The timelines for reporting data and processing also have been extended. Report Cards will be delayed until October 14 (versus the typical mid-September release date). For more information on Education Management Information System (EMIS) reporting windows, please visit the EMIS webpage. For updated information on EMIS data appeals dates, check the EMIS Data Appeals webpage. Additional information on the 2020-2021 school year report cards for districts, schools, Career Technical Planning Districts and schools receiving the dropout prevention and recovery report card can be found on the Report Card Resources FAQ page.

The U.S. Department of Education is allowing states to request waivers for accountability and school identification for the 2020-2021 school year provided performance data is reported publicly for the purposes of recovery and improvement planning. This opportunity is different from the originally provided addendum, which only provided technical adjustments to the accountability system.

The intent of Ohio’s waiver request is to limit the consequences of any data generated during this school year in alignment with federal flexibility and recently passed state legislation.

The federal waiver request will be available on the Ohio Department of Education’s ESSA webpage. Once submitted, the Ohio Department of Education will await official approval to implement the adjustments from the U.S. Department of Education.


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

1The 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 preidentified to the school they attend, and the test administrator must be associated with the same attending school in TIDE. Test administrators can be associated with multiple schools.   

Last Modified: 8/12/2021 2:23:17 PM