States will need to administer annual standardized performance exams to students in 2021, but they can change or delay testing, the U.S. Department of Education said on Monday.
In a letter to state education officials, Acting Assistant Secretary for Education Ian Rosenblum wrote that the Biden administration would not consider “blanket waivers from assessments” this year.
Under federal law, states are required to administer annual exams in key subjects, including reading and math, to students in grades three through eight and once in high school. The results of these reviews can be used to judge schools, and sometimes teachers as well, on their performance, and they can also trigger improvement efforts.
The requirement to administer state exams was lifted by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in the spring of 2020, when most schools in the US closed as a result of COVID-19.
The new directions of the Biden administration come before its candidate for education secretary, Miguel Cardona, is confirmed. During her confirmation hearing in early February, Cardona did not say whether the exams required by the federal government should be canceled again this year. He said it was important to assess student progress, but schools probably shouldn’t bring students back in person just to administer a test.
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States can choose to shorten annual reviews, administer them remotely, or postpone them until the summer or fall, depending on the new guidelines. In addition, schools will not be held responsible for the results of student performance.
“Certainly, we don’t think that if there are places where students cannot go to school safely in person due to the pandemic, they should be brought into school buildings for the sole purpose of take a test, ”Rosenblum wrote.
The issue of standardized testing has divided the educational community and this political decision was no exception.
The announcement embodied a “frustrating turn” for the administration after a string of successes in supporting children during the pandemic, said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union in the country. country.
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“As educators in the classroom, we have always known that standardized tests are not the best way to measure a child’s development, they do not particularly help children or inform the best. teaching and learning practices, ”she wrote in the statement. “This is especially true in these unprecedented times, when students and teachers are re-doing the school experience under the most unlikely of circumstances.”
But State School Chiefs Council CEO Carissa Moffat Miller said she supported the federal requirement, writing in a statement Monday that the announcement “recognizes the real and varied challenges facing educators, students and families are facing across the country.
“State education officials and the CCSSO deeply value assessment as a tool to know where students are, identify inequalities and inform decision-making, including ensuring that supports reach the students who need it, ”she added.
The National Parents-Teacher Association released a poll on Monday that found 52% of parents surveyed were in favor of end-of-year testing this spring “to measure the impact of the pandemic on student learning.”
Usually, state achievement tests are administered to students in the spring. They allow “to have a clearer picture of the situation of children at school level and help parents to effectively advocate for their child’s learning,” said APP manager Leslie Boggs.
“As the survey results highlight, parents and educators should have meaningful data on student learning and progress” in order to tailor learning, she added.