BY KARISSA MILLER
Iredell-Statesville Schools students will not take standardized tests this school year as students are learning remotely because of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Jonathan Ribbeck, the district’s executive director of elementary education, said that North Carolina joined other states on Monday by canceling standardized testing for this academic year.
The request was granted by the U.S. Department of Education, according to the N.C. State Board of Education.
“Our students need to take this time and stay healthy. They have never learned from home like this,” Ribbeck explained.
“I don’t think we can help that there will be a loss between now and when we come back. Online learning and learning packets aren’t as good as having a teacher in the classroom,” he added.
For many students and families, this decision is a big relief. However, there are some challenges that will also need to be addressed.
In North Carolina, poor standardized test scores in reading can prevent a low-performing student from advancing to the next level grade as a result of the Read to Achieve law.
Reading camps are part of that law and offer an extended opportunity for third-graders who need extra support in reading. Whether or not reading camps will take place this summer is unknown at this time.
“We are waiting on a lot of clarification from the state on Read to Achieve mandates,” Ribbeck explained.
Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday ordered schools to remain closed until May 15 while state health officials try to control the spread of COVID-19. There have been 297 cases reported in North Carolina, including eight in Iredell County.
On Monday, I-SS students began their remote learning assignments.
Last week, elementary schools used their car rider lines and student bus stops to distribute the distance-learning packets to their parents. Officials said that any elementary parent that did not receive a learning packet should contact their child’s school.
Meanwhile, middle and high school students will take part in online learning using their school-issued laptops.
School administrators know that at this time students may not have equal access to learning and lessons outside of the classroom.
“We have complied with Gov. Cooper’s expectations and are doing distant learning and have established ways for students to have access to Internet,” said Superintendent Brady Johnson.
I-SS sent home Internet Access Surveys for district families. As a result, more than 350 families are taking advantage of the free hotspot WIFI devices, according to data from I-SS.
However, officials say that isn’t necessarily representative of the number of families that still need Internet access.
The superintendent commended County Manager Beth Jones for deciding to leave the Iredell County Public Library open to students who are without Internet connectivity at home.
Johnson cited that decision as one of many examples of extraordinary efforts being made as people collaborate and cooperate to do what is best for students across the county.
The library will remain closed during the house of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to the general public, but will be open for I-SS and Mooresville Graded School District middle and high school students only to complete required assignments as a result of mandatory school closings.
Students can make an appointment to utilize the services can also receive transportation to the library. Call the Statesville branch at 704-878-3090, Ext. 3097, for more information.
Advice For Parents
With I-SS providing remote instruction, a larger burden falls on parents to keep their children on task.
Ribbeck is encouraging parents to help their children at home with their packets and allow them to use the Internet for assignments. He also encourages parents to give their children regular snack breaks and time to run around outside for a little while.
“We can’t be there for them, but we miss our students. Any families can get help at home by contacting their school for instruction, food or any other needs,” Ribbeck said.