Gov. John Bel Edwards said he will issue a proclamation to shelve standardized tests for public school students because of the novel coronavirus.

The decision is subject to federal approval of waiver requests submitted Tuesday by state education leaders to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In his letter, which is addressed to the education community, Edwards said the virus "has created a temporary new normal" in the state.

The tests include annual exams given to students in grades 3-8 and 9-12, including tests in math, reading and English/language arts.

The request also applies to end-of-course exams, school and district accountability and teacher evaluations.

Many of the tests were scheduled to be given at the end of March and early April.

Edwards last week ordered public schools closed until April 13 because of the coronavirus outbreak, and that order may be extended.

The order applies to nearly 720,000 public school students statewide.

Schools typically finish around mid-May.

The governor's order also means that students will not have to make up the missed time.

The request to federal officials, which was signed by Acting State Superintendent of Education Beth Scioneaux, applies to the same subjects cited by Edwards.

"We believe that we are going to get the waiver," Edwards said Wednesday during his monthly "Ask the Governor" radio show.

The governor was asked how students can keep pace with what they need to know after the schools shutdown.

Edwards said officials of the state Department of Education, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, superintendents and others "are intensely focused on that particular question."

He said "parents and caregivers are going to have to step up," and noted that distance learning and a state partnership with Louisiana Public Broadcasting to offer home education tools are among the options.

"There are a number of actions we can do and none of it will totally make up for the fact that they are not in school. But we can minimize the disruption we face."

On a related issue, the Louisiana Board of Regents is expected to ask the Legislature to make an exception to the requirement that graduating seniors applying for the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, or TOPS, have a qualifying ACT score no later than April to qualify for TOPS without penalty.

ACT measures college readiness, and national exams set for April 4 have been pushed back to June 13.

TOPS provides tuition and other financial assistance for students who meet the academic requirements.

State officials are expected to notify students when there is a change in the ACT requirements.

The Legislature is in temporary adjournment until March 31.

A total of 61 of Louisiana's 64 parishes are offering up to two meals per day for students during the school closures, according to the state Department of Education.


Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.