Politics

The Biden administration says schools should still take standardized exams this year

This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Colorado. More in chalkbeat.org.

Written by Matt Barnum, Chalk

The Biden administration said Monday that states should take the federally required standardized exams this year, but schools will not be responsible for the results – and states could offer shorter, distant, or late versions of the tests.

It is the education department’s first high-risk decision in the new administration, and it comes even before Education Minister Miguel Cardona’s candidate is confirmed.

“To achieve success once schools reopen, we need to understand the impact of COVID-19 on learning and identify the resources and support students need,” said Ian Rosenblum, Acting Assistant Secretary of Education, He wrote in a letter to state education leaders.

In the past school year, regular standardized exams were canceled as the pandemic closed school buildings across the country. The decision means schools will have to find ways to test for millions of students, many of whom are still learning from a distance.

Several countries, including California, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey And the New YorkThey have already requested or said they plan to seek an exemption from this year’s testing requirements. Officials in Florida, Indiana, Tennessee And the Texas They indicated that they plan to test students regardless of what the Biden administration decided.

to me Bill Presented in Colorado General Assembly will The state Department of Education requires the US Department of Education to waive test requirements, whether or not the federal government calls for such requests. If Colorado were to gain a waiver, the bill would suspend the Colorado Scales of Academic Success Exam Administration for all subjects.

Skipping exams without compromise could cost Colorado millions in federal aid.

The letter sent by the administration on Monday outlines a number of potential ways countries could modify their testing regimes. States could request shortening assessments, offering remote testing, or extending the time students can sit for the exam – possibly extending it to the summer or the following academic year.

“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 taking the test,” Rosenblum wrote.

The letter indicates that the department will consider more flexibility on a state-by-state basis.

Test opponents this year asserted that it would be logistically difficult and not a good use of educational time. Some state officials have them I acknowledge That they have little ability to compel students to sit for an exam, and that remote testing raises concerns about the accuracy and validity of results – particularly because students who have lost a significant amount of learning may be the least likely to take the tests.

Some civil rights groups, as well as top Democrats in Congress, have lined up on the other side, arguing that exams are absolutely necessary after a long period of interrupted education.

The Biden administration agreed. “It is imperative to understand the impact of COVID-19 on learning,” Rosenblum wrote.

Ohio provides a window into what a test could look like during a pandemic: Earlier this year, the state administered personalized reading tests intended for all third-graders. In a normal year, 95% of third graders take the test; this year, Participation decreased To 81%. Participation was lower among students in completely remote areas, as well as among low-income students and students of color. In some places, like Columbus, the state’s largest school district, A little bit Students take the exam.

Chalkbeat is a non-profit news site that covers educational change in public schools.

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