Biden administration rightly holds the line on statewide academic assessments

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The education department doubled the importance of data in the nation’s COVID-19 recovery on Monday night by making the bold decision to stay the course on one of the most powerful tools we have for measuring student progress : annual statewide assessments.

The timing of the announcement is interesting given that Miguel Cardona has yet to be confirmed by the entire Senate as education secretary. Still, there is no doubt that the spring state assessment season is fast approaching and states need clear direction.

I applaud the decisions included in the announcement – forgoing accountability requirements and providing flexibility on how assessments are administered – and I know the commitment to collecting state-wide data will come as A relief for the many civil rights, education and business groups that have long considered such assessments are essential to address inequalities in education.

But it’s not just advocacy groups that are convinced of the role data should play. Just this week, the National PTA released a poll showing a majority of parents in favor of year-end testing. Almost two-thirds are worried about their child’s delay during school closures linked to a pandemic and want more information on their children’s school situation.

But what about Cardona? While the full Senate is expected to confirm this later this week, where is it? Organizations like mine were thrilled that during Cardona’s confirmation hearing, he emphasized how critical assessments are in helping educators and school leaders identify and address long-standing gaps in the field. equity and opportunity.

Given the crisis our schools are facing, Cardona will be forced to get down.

The federal government and state leaders must always remain vigilant in the face of this new flexibility and ensure continued state-wide data collection as part of their COVID-19 recovery efforts. As rightly stated in the Department’s announcement, “… we need to understand the impact of COVID-19 on learning and identify the resources and support that students need.”

This sentiment is also expressed in a letter signed by 19 civil rights and education organizations, including the National Urban League and UnidosUS. They state, “To understand the effects of the COVID-19 crisis and ensure that this pandemic does not undermine the future of students across the country, we need to collect accurate, objective and comparable data that speaks to the quality education right now. , including data from statewide assessments. ”

Last year, as our country closed schools due to the pandemic, the Department of Education made the right decision to forgo testing.

However, like Khalilah Harris, Acting vice president of K-12 education policy at the Center for American Progress recently said, “We’re at a different time now. Media articles and reports on the results of local assessments show disturbing data on the realities of distance education: millions of students are denied the opportunity to learn. Studies of local test results warn that millions of students particularly vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 are missing from the data. “

We also know that the public remains strongly supported to ensure that educators and parents have reliable data. In Colorado, for example, a recent poll from Keating Research found that public support for a statewide assessment this spring to understand student learning loss was extremely high, with the public supporting the need for a test with a huge margin of 62-25%. Likewise, Education Reform Now Advocacy released survey results in November which showed 51% of parents surveyed in Georgia and North Carolina and 67% of voters in Arizona supported the administration of assessments this spring.

In addition, prominent editorial boards of New York Times and the Washington post called for assessments to help measure student learning – with the New York Times noting that “given the lack of data on testing for black, Hispanic and poor children, it may well be that these groups have fared worse in the pandemic than their more affluent white peers.”

This does not mean that scores should be used in the same way they were used before the pandemic, especially in school accountability systems. We are supporting the Education Department by allowing flexibility in how the results are used this year.

As we seek to move schools beyond the challenges of this unprecedented pandemic, statewide spring assessments will be essential in helping educators and parents understand the impact on learning. States like Utah, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas and Arizona should be commended for advancing and administering their statewide assessments this school year. The results will help educators know how to target resources to meet the needs of students – regardless of race, income, disability or location.

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