Mississippi’s Carey Wright, a non-profit Mississippi News state superintendent of education, was sent a letter last Wednesday with the clear message: Expect to administer state exams this school year. Last week, Secretary Betsy DeVos wrote a letter to state education department heads advising them not to expect waivers from federally mandated assessments, despite the effects of the global pandemic on instruction. Students’ performance in state assessments has an impact on the accountability grades of districts, which are based on an A-F scale. Students in the 3rd-8th grades and high school students who take end-of-the year tests in Algebra I and English II are subject to state tests. Schools were closed in March as the new coronavirus was spreading through Mississippi. State tests were also canceled. The previous year’s school and district accountability scores were carried over. DeVos began her Sept. 3 letter with the statement that school closings in spring had a disproportionate impact on students most at risk. This fact highlights the need to collect more data about the effects of learning loss. She wrote, “Moving forward, meeting all students’ needs will require tremendous effort.” “Moving forward, meeting the needs of all students will require tremendous effort,” she wrote. Dean stated to Mississippi Today that we need to know the extent of learning losses resulting from school closings and other COVID-19 effects. “We have to know where we are now compared to the spring of 2019, two years ago.” Dean said that education officials are open for consideration about how assessment scores may impact accountability ratings in the coming year. A team from the state education department is currently looking into possible ways to address accountability ratings concerns. Dean acknowledged that many educators are worried and said that an accountability rating decision will not be made until after state assessments are administered, which is usually in April or May. In a statement, the Mississippi Department of Education stated that it does not plan to request the U.S. Department of Education to remove the requirement for state testing. The Mississippi Association for School Superintendents did not immediately respond to a request for comment.