Decision To Hold Federally-Mandated Education Testing Made Little Sense

The decision to hold federally-mandated education testing in English language arts and math already made little sense this year.

The tests are a rite of spring each year for third- through eighth-graders is supposed to provide a snapshot of how children across the country are learning compared to their peers.

Of course, such comparisons are impossible this year because different school districts are educating their students differently due to COVID-19. Some schools have returned to full attendance in school, some schools are a mix of in-school and remote learning while other districts are fully remote. There is no way the tests provide any sort of meaningful data when looking at a bigger picture.

It would have made sense for the federal government to allow states to cancel the tests this year, but the federal Department of Education has decided the tests should go on.

Now, consider what happens with existing restrictions on the tests. Emily Harvey, Panama Central School director of instruction, told school board members last week that the district was waiting for guidance from the New York Education Department regarding how to handle testing for students who aren’t in school on a testing day because their schedule has them learning remotely. The tests can’t be given remotely and are to be given only on one day — meaning some students and their parents will have to change their schedules to participate. That situation will come up throughout the state, particularly in schools that have yet to return to any form of in-school instruction.

Schools have already been doing their own assessments to gauge learning loss. Those assessments should suffice, particularly if administering the tests this year means an additional burden on schools and, most importantly, children and their families. After all, there are already in-school assessments being used to guide instruction — and isn’t that what really matters?


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