Carey Wright, State Superintendent of Education, answers questions about staffing during a legislative working group hearing centering on agencies personnel and their cost effectiveness, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016, at the Capitol in Jackson.

As coronavirus precautions continue to close businesses and shut down schools, state Superintendent Carey Wright is calling for state testing requirements to be cancelled for the 2019-20 school year.

There are 14 assessments for students in grades K-12 required by state or federal law, or state board of education policy. In a statement sent out late Monday afternoon, the Mississippi Department of Education announced that Wright is asking the State Board of Education, which sets policy for the state’s 140 public school districts, to suspend state and federal assessment and accountability requirements.

The state board of education is scheduled to meet virtually on March 19 at 10 a.m.

“This is an unprecedented time in our state and country, and the safety, health and well-being of students, school staff and communities are the MDE’s and the Mississippi State Board of Education’s top priorities,” Wright said.

The request comes in response to coronavirus, which has forced Mississippi public schools to close until at least next week; many districts have voluntarily agreed to remain closed longer. There are currently 12 confirmed cases in the state, and that figure is expected to increase. The department of education has a running list of school closures here.

[Read all of Mississippi Today’s coverage of the coronavirus in Mississippi.]

Mississippi public schools are required by federal law to assess students in a variety of subjects. If the state board approves, the Mississippi Department of Education would “seek the maximum authority and waivers afforded by the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies.”

Factors like students’ proficiency in tested subjects, graduation rates, and ACT performance are all a part of Mississippi’s accountability model, which measures how well schools are educating students. Schools and districts are rated on an A through F scale. Should the board accept Wright’s request, that means students will not be taking state tests at the end of the school year and school districts cannot be rated.

The future for Mississippi schools are uncertain right now. On March 14, Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency and requested that all public schools extend spring break by at least one week.

On Monday, Reeves announced he signed an executive order to “encourage our schools to start setting up distance learning operations and distance learning options for our kids,” suggesting in-person classes are not likely even if schools re-open on March 23.

The closures mean lost learning time for the state’s nearly 466,000 public school students. Schools are required by law to operate for 180 days, but the state board of education can waive the requirement that they make up lost days.

If schools remain closed for an extended period of time, Wright said she “will recommend that the (state board) waive applicable policies regarding attendance, promotion and graduation.”

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Kayleigh Skinner joined the Mississippi Today team in January 2017 as an education and legislative reporter and advanced to a senior staff member in her four years with the company. Before joining Mississippi Today, Kayleigh worked at The Hechinger Report, Chalkbeat Tennessee, and The Commercial Appeal. She has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, and BBC Newsday Radio to discuss her reporting.