JACKSON • The Mississippi State Board of Education voted on Thursday morning to suspend several policies for the 2020-21 school year due to COVID-19, while some will return to normal – including state testing and accountability.

Unlike the 2019-20 school year, the requirement for 180 days of instruction each school year will be enforced for 2020-21 but districts will be allowed to implement one or more of three options provided for school openings.

Those options include: a traditional schedule requiring students to be physically present in school with scheduling modifications to follow Mississippi State Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control recommendations, a hybrid schedule combining online and face-to-face instruction or a virtual schedule providing instruction through distance learning.

MDE will provide guidance regarding how to record attendance based on the scheduling options provided.

The board reduced required instructional hours from 5.5 hours to 4 hours per day.

MDE approved an additional one-year suspension in 2020-21 for the Mississippi code that states, “the number of hours of actual teaching which shall constitute a school day shall be determined and fixed by the Board of Trustees of the school district and not less than five and one-half hours.”

With this suspension of the 330 minutes of instruction per day, districts will be required to meet a minimum of 240 minutes (4 hours) of instructional time per day to allow for flexibility with re-entry plans and scheduling options resulting from COVID-19.

MDE also suspended the minimum requirement of 140 hours of instruction required for each Carnegie unit credit for the 2020-21 school year.

Each district will be required to “develop a plan to ensure the mastery of content for each Carnegie unit awarded in lieu of meeting the 140-hour requirement for one Carnegie unit awarded. Plans must be approved by the local school board and posted on the district’s website no later than Sept. 30, 2020.

The SBE also suspended the policy requiring districts to seek a waiver from the board or the Commission on School Accreditation if they are unable to comply with state-mandated student-teacher ratios.

So far, the U.S. Department of Education has not issued a waiver of accountability requirements for the 2020-21 school year, so “all accountability data collection and reporting will be required” to meet all state and federal requirements.

Students grade 7 through 12 enrolled in Algebra I, Biology, English II or U.S. History during the upcoming school year will be required to take and pass corresponding subject area tests to meet graduation requirements for the 2020-21 school year.

State and federal assessments, including the Pre-K and Kindergarten Readiness Assessment and MAAP exams in English Language Arts, Mathematics and Science, will also be administered.

The 3rd Grade Reading assessment required by the Literacy Based Promotion Act will be administered to all third-grade students during the 2020-21 school year.

Other policies that remain the same for the 2020-21 school year include establishing graduation requirements, criteria for academic promotion and uniform grading policies prior to the first day of school, and districts will not have the authority to change them mid-year as they did during the 2019-20 school year.

blake.alsup@journalinc.com

Twitter: @AlsupTheWriter

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