WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and U.S. Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina have signed on to a letter urging a testing waiver for the 2020-2021 school year.
Graham, Rice and Congressmen Joe Wilson, Jeff Duncan, Ralph Norman and William Timmons sent the letter Monday to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
The letter begins by providing background on the AcceleratED task force created by the South Carolina Department of Education and noting that one of the recommendations of the task force was for a federal testing requirements waiver. The letter then explains that South Carolina Superintendent of Schools Molly Spearman requested a waiver in July.
To date, required public feedback on the waiver request has been 93% in favor of the waiver.
These results are consistent with the desire of South Carolina’s educators and families to maximize instructional time during the current school year, the legislators said in the letter.
"We already know that COVID-19 has caused a disruption in student learning, and instead of using valuable time to reaffirm that fact with a test, we should be using that time to address student needs through instruction," they said in the letter.
They then continue to say that students, teachers and family members had a tremendous burden lifted after the granting of a waiver in the spring.
"As we enter a new era of in-person, virtual and hybrid learning, students, teachers and families continue to be under immense stress as they navigate unchartered ways of learning during the pandemic," they added. "Our hope is that by honoring this waiver request, some of this pressure will be alleviated and our students will have more time to focus on learning."
The letter was developed in response to a request from the Palmetto State Teachers Association.
The association reached out to the Palmetto State's federal delegation after DeVos sent a letter to state education decision makers around the country indicating that the department would reject COVID-19 testing waiver requests for the 2020-2021 school year.
Spearman previously sent a request to the department for such a waiver. Spearman's effort is supported by the teacher's association.
"We believe a one-year suspension of these testing requirements would reduce the stress on our students while affording increased instructional time to drive student learning and growth," the teachers association said in a news release Tuesday morning. "For these reasons, we were dismayed when U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos sent a letter to state education chiefs earlier this month indicating her intention to deny waiver requests."