Education Department requiring standardized testing, giving schools pandemic flexibility

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The Education Department on Monday announced that standardized testing must occur this year, though it will allow states to delay testing or apply for certain exemptions. 

In a letter to chief state education officers, acting Assistant Education Secretary Ian Rosenblum wrote that testing is essential to measure the effects the pandemic has had on students’ progress. 

“President Biden’s first priority is to safely re-open schools and get students back in classrooms, learning face-to-face from teachers with their fellow students,” Rosenblum wrote. “To be successful once schools have re-opened, we need to understand the impact COVID-19 has had on learning and identify what resources and supports students need.” 

The department official went on to say that schools must “be prepared to address the educational inequities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, including by using student learning data to enable states, school districts, and schools to target resources and supports to the students with the greatest needs,” adding that parents also “need information on how their children are doing.”

Rosenblum wrote that the agency is requiring that all schools implement standardized testing as soon as possible but is also allowing schools to implement a shortened version of the assessments, distribute them remotely or extend the testing window to the fall. 

The letter also explained that states will be permitted to request a waiver for the 2020-2021 school year of the accountability and school identification requirements in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. 

According to the Department of Education, a state that receives this waiver “would not be required to implement and report the results of its accountability system, including calculating progress toward long-term goals and measurements of interim progress or indicators, or to annually meaningfully differentiate among its public schools using data from the 2020-2021 school year.” 

While Democrats have pushed for standardized testing to identify the effects the coronavirus pandemic has had on meeting learning goals, Republicans and teacher unions have pushed back on the practice. 

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the federal agency’s announcement was a “frustrating turn” and that federal tests should be replaced altogether by locally created examinations. 

“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,” Weingarten said. “That is especially true in these unprecedented times.”

Tags American Federation of Teachers classrooms coronavirus pandemic Department of Education Joe Biden Remote learning standardized testing The Associated Press

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