MDE Update: COVID-19 Guidance to Districts as of March 23, 2020

Covid-19 Updates for Districts

Mississippi to Receive Waiver from U.S. Department of Education to Suspend Required Assessments in 2019-20 School Year

In response to the Mississippi Department of Education’s (MDE) request, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) informed the MDE that it intends to grant Mississippi a waiver to suspend all required assessments for the 2019-20 school year. Based on ED’s review of MDE’s request, ED intends to issue a formal approval of the MDE waiver request in the coming weeks. ED is allowing MDE to implement the waivers while ED processes the formal approval.

Mississippi students who were scheduled to take any of the following state or federal assessments during the 2019-20 school year are exempt from the required assessments:

  • Pre-K and Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (post-test)
  • Mississippi Academic Assessment Program (MAAP) and MAAP-Alternate English Language Arts, Mathematics and Science – Grades 3-8
  • Algebra I
  • English II
  • Biology
  • U.S. History
  • English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT)
  • Career Planning and Assessment System (CPAS)
  • ACT for 11th graders

Though current 11th graders are not required to take the 2019-20 statewide administration of the ACT, the MDE is seeking fee waivers for 11th graders who wish to take the assessment when it is rescheduled for a later date.

The Mississippi State Board of Education will hold a special-called virtual meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday, March 26, to consider policy waivers for promotion and graduation and recommendations to manage the effects of the statewide school closure. The public can view the meeting via livestream at

We know you have questions on next steps on policy decisions. MDE is working to address policy questions and will present information to the SBE.

Supplemental Guidance for Students with Disabilities

The MDE COVID-19 website section on Special Education has been updated based on recently released guidance from ED regarding services to students with disabilities. Please refer to items 9-23 for the new guidance.

Distance Learning Q&A

Are school systems required to offer distance learning, or is this optional? Will a school system be penalized for not providing formal distance education and instead providing access to materials and resources? Will days or minutes need to be made up?

The MDE is not directing districts that they must transition to delivery of all content online, as online access and remote support for rural students as well as students with disabilities will certainly pose equity issues across the state. Districts do need to consider how they can help facilitate continued learning within homes across the state – through online delivery or by making grade-level instructional packets, Family Success Guides, and other resources available for pick-up at school or various locations within the district.

 Are students required to participate in distance learning if it is offered?

Participation in activities and opportunities will vary by district, depending on the selected approaches and capacity to support all students. Districts should focus on providing access to learning opportunities for families to support student success.

MDE Learning-at-Home Resources 

The MDE has compiled a host of learning-at-home resources for students in pre-K through grade 12 to support student learning during the extended school closure. The resources are available online at

The learning-at-home resources do not replace what children have learned at school, but instead help students practice the skills and strategies taught by their teachers. The resources are intended to help parents and caregivers engage students in continued education.

Resources include learning activities, example videos and digital resources that are aligned with the Mississippi College-and Career-Readiness Standards to continue and reinforce children’s education.

MDE content specialists have reviewed all resources, which include dedicated webpages for students in pre-K-grade 1, grades 2-3, grades 4-5, grades 6-8 and grades 9-12. Also, resources for students with visual or hearing impairments are available and guidance on social emotional learning.

During this unusual time of extended school closures nationwide, it is important that students continue to read, write, and engage in social studies, science and math activities.

The MDE learning-at-home webpages will be updated periodically with additional resources.

Phonics First Literacy Courses

School closures and the need for social distancing related to COVID-19 have caused the cancellation of Phonics First literacy courses that were scheduled through the end of the 2019-2020 school year. Because of this circumstance, the MDE Office of Special Education is offering the Phonics First K-5 course in an E-learning format at no cost to districts. General education K-3 teachers and special education K-5 teachers will receive training comparable to a face-to-face course, including live instructor videos and training and classroom materials.

Teachers will have 30 days to complete 32 hours of instruction and may obtain CEUs for the course. We are able to open 100 seats for the e-learning course at this time. If you feel your staff would benefit from this intensive literacy training, please forward this information to teachers, interventionists, literacy coaches and others who provide direct instruction in reading to children.

Follow the links below to watch a demo or enroll as a participant:

Phonics First® K-5 E-learning DEMO:

Phonics First® K-5 E-Learning REGISTRATION: