This year has been so hard on parents, students, and teachers everywhere, which is why we all let out an exasperated whyyyyyy when the Education Department announced Monday that while they’re OK with states postponing or delaying standardized testing, schools are not allowed to outright cancel this year’s tests. The Biden administration made the mandate and released the accompanying accommodations this week — schools can elect to move the dates, shorten the tests, or offer online testing options where remote learning was still necessary — but reiterated that the annual testing still had to be completed by school districts for the 2020/2021 school year.
The Associated Press reported that acting Assistant Education Secretary Ian Rosenblum said the decision was made in part to help educators understand the impacts of the pandemic. “In addition, parents need information on how their children are doing,” he wrote.
Opposition to the statement was swift. “We have always known that standardized tests are not the best way to measure a child’s development, nor do they particularly help kids or inform best practices for teaching and learning,” Randi Weingarten, union president of The American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement. “That is especially true in these unprecedented times.”
Under normal circumstances, these tests are used as a way to gauge math and reading progress and identify disparities. The political response has been divided. While former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos allowed states to cancel testing during the 2019/2020 school year, she was adamant that testing needed to take place in the future, out of fear that failing to test would “have a lasting effect for years to come.”
Republican Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina broke with the party line when he voiced his desire for testing to be canceled for another year during Miguel Cardona’s hearing to become education secretary. Cardona explained that he believed testing was needed to see exactly where the education gaps happened during the pandemic and to help rectify them.
As part of the proposed adjustments to this year’s standardized testing, states will still be required to make their results public and break them down by race and other demographics, but they won’t be used to identify struggling schools this year. Still, those accommodations won’t come without strings. According to the Biden administration, in order to receive testing and reporting flexibility, districts will need to accept and apply “unrelated” requirements.
As news broke, some parents took to Twitter to voice their frustrations. “My kids will not take a standardized test in a pandemic,” wrote @MotherCrusader. “I don’t care if accountability measures are detached.”
Teachers, who are often given promotions and raises based on test results, also voiced their frustrations and concerns. “Ask me about any 4th grade standard for any of my 50 students and I can tell you their level of mastery,” wrote @emmaboehmer on Twitter. “Teachers and parents don’t need standardized tests to tell them about a student.”
Some school boards, like one in Central Ohio, announced that they would petition for the cancellation of the standardized tests for their students. ““We should not have students coming back for all-in learning and then all of a sudden flip to testing,” said Sam Shim, a member of the Worthington City Schools Board of Education to the Columbus, Ohio ABC News Affiliate WSYX. “It’s only going to cause more trauma this year. I think even for kids that are doing well, the pandemic has been a source of trauma.”
But not everyone is against the testing. Some commentators have said that testing can do everything from show what loss has occurred over this unprecedented year, to maintain accountability.
“There are no stakes to these tests and I believe benchmarks still should be in place,” wrote @CanalBeers. “Would love to make sure our students are getting the knowledge they deserve.” While we can see both sides of the argument, it seems like educators and parents have made their feelings clear on this topic.
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