From Susan Spicka, Executive Director, Education Voters of PA
Many families, school officials, and advocates had hoped that the Biden Administration would grant waivers that would allow states to cancel standardized tests this year because of the extraordinary challenges the pandemic has created for students and schools.
But this did not happen. The US Department of Education announced yesterday that states would not be allowed to cancel the tests, but would instead be granted flexibility in how they give the tests and how they are used.
In response to this decision, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) announced that districts will be given the option to delay the administration of standardized tests to K-12 students for the 2020-2021 school year until the fall.
PDE’s decision to give districts the option of delaying of testing allows school administrators and teachers to focus their time and energy for the remainder of this school year on teaching and supporting students.
The testing delay will also allow school leaders to spend their time now doing the critically important work of planning how they will invest one-time federal funding to help mitigate the harm that Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable students have experienced because of school closures and other pandemic-related issues.
The excerpt below from a letter that civil rights, social justice, disability rights and education advocacy organizations sent to the Biden Administration provides insight into why some believe standardized testing is necessary this year:
“For the parents, families, and communities we serve, the data from annual statewide assessments are an important source of information that tell them how well the education system is serving their children. The use of standardized tests has helped reveal longstanding achievement gaps and racial disparities in academic opportunity and provided the evidence used by civil rights groups to advocate for change. Systems of accountability in education serve as a critical tool to ensuring the most vulnerable students and schools receive the support and resources they need to succeed…
“Particularly now, during this time of national crisis, states and school districts have a duty to serve our most vulnerable children by doing all they can to assess the impact of the pandemic and to provide additional resources and supports to the students that need them the most. We cannot improve what we do not measure, and if we do not measure the opportunity gaps being exacerbated during COVID19, we risk losing a generation of young people.”
This has been and continues to be an unimaginably difficult year for students, families, teachers, administrators, and school staff.
As public education advocates we have two jobs:
- Ensuring that school districts have the substantial funding they will need to mitigate the harm our most vulnerable students have experienced as a result of COVID-19 school closures.
- Holding our state lawmakers accountable for fixing Pennsylvania’s most inequitable school funding system in the nation, which is responsible for much of the harm students have experienced. Our state lawmakers must ensure that Pennsylvania’s public schools will emerge from COVID stronger than before the virus hit. They must support new, recurring state funding that is distributed in a way that addresses student need to once and for all ensure school districts have the necessary funding to close longstanding achievement and opportunity gaps. ALL students in Pennsylvania have the right to an education that gives them the opportunity to thrive, succeed, and live productive, fulfilling lives after graduation.
Thank you for your continued support of public education.
Susan Spicka, Executive Director, Education Voters of PA