On February 23, Jim Cowen, executive director of the Collaborative for Student Success, published the following statement on the U.S. Department of Education’s decision to maintain annual standardized assessments for the 2020-2021 school year:
Late yesterday, by maintaining its commitment to annual assessments, the U.S. Department of Education doubled down on the importance of data in the national recovery from COVID-19. They made a bold move to stay the course on one of the strongest tools we have in measuring student progress.
Make no mistake, it would be easier politically to simply waive this requirement entirely. We strongly agree that students, teachers, and parents have undergone enormous difficulties over the last year and deserve incredible grace during our national recovery.
But to get out of this pandemic, we must know the impact that extended school closures have had on student progress. That is the only way we can apply the needed support—the dollars and the services necessary to confront the issue.
We applaud the Department for taking the difficult but correct position.
We hope that others—including governors and state education leaders —will listen to parents and national civil rights organizations and reaffirm the value of state assessment data to aid in the recovery effort. We call on states to follow the example of leaders in Utah, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas and Arizona who have already stepped forward with bold leadership to say that statewide testing will carry on in their state.
This statement adds to strong existing public support for administering statewide annual assessments this year, including:
Results from a national survey conducted by the National Parent Teacher Association and released on Feb. 22, 2021 found that 52% of parents “favor end-of-year testing this spring to measure the impact of the pandemic on student learning.” Additionally, 60% of parents were concerned that their child may behind and want more information on where their child is academically.
The nonprofit Learning Heroes found in its Parents 2020 study that 70% of parents say that want to know what material their child has missed as a result of the pandemic and what their school plans to do to address the missed classroom time.
Civil Rights Support
Following the Education Department decision to maintain the commitment to testing this school year, more than 40 national and state-based civil rights and education organizations issued a letter commending the department for not considering blanket waivers, stating “Parents and families deserve to know whether their children are meeting college- and career-ready expectations and whether the education system is responding to and improving their opportunities to succeed.”
The Data Quality Campaign in June released the results of a national poll that found 89% of teachers agree that they want data about which of their students are furthest behind so that they can do their part to support students getting back on track. Also, 77% of parents agree that states should resume administration of end-of-year summative assessments in math and reading next year.
The Educators for Excellence’s “Voices from the Classroom” nationwide survey in January 2020 found that 92% of teachers support summative measures of student learning.
In Colorado, a recent poll by Keating Research finds that public support for a statewide assessment this spring to understand student learning loss is sky high, with the public supporting the need for a test by a whopping 62% – 25% margin.
Education Reform Now Advocacy released survey results in November that showed that 51% of parents surveyed in both Georgia and North Carolina and 67% of voters in Arizona supported administering assessments this spring.
The Collaborative for Student Success has additionally promoted petitions in Georgia, Arizona, and Michigan to urge state and federal education leaders to move forward with spring assessments so that all stakeholders have actionable data on student learning during the pandemic.
On Feb. 20, 2021, the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers of America’s leading companies, issued a staunch statement in support of administering assessments this school year. “The damage to students’ academic foundations isn’t just a problem today — without data-driven interventions, it will hamstring our workforce for decades to come,” the group stated.
Other Public Support
In addition, prominent editorial boards from New York Times and the Washington Post have called for assessments to help measure student learning – with the New York Times noting that “given a shortage of testing data for Black, Hispanic and poor children, it could well be that these groups have fared worse in the pandemic than their white more affluent peers.”