As an educator and a parent, I appreciate that there are strong arguments on both sides of the debate over whether Colorado schools should administer state tests this year.
Ultimately, I have concluded that despite the challenges, it is more important this year than ever to conduct some limited standardized testing. Rather than list my reasons here, I urge you to read this statement from Papa Dia, leader of the African Leadership Group, of which I am an active member. I fully endorse Papa’s arguments.
I would urge the detractors of state testing and assessment — including some elected school board members — to pause and ponder the implications of their opt-out and end testing campaigns. At the end, you are hurting the very kids you profess to want to help.
Reasonable people can and have disagreed on this issue. The Denver school board issued a statement Feb. 4 “calling on Governor Jared Polis, the State Board of Education, and the Colorado General Assembly to urge the Colorado Commissioner of Education and Department of Education to submit an application to the federal government to waive required standardized assessment.”
The district’s administration has taken a different position, writing in a Feb. 24 letter to parents that “these tests are an important way to monitor our students’ learning progress.”
Aurora Public Schools and its board has yet to take a position on the issue.
More recently, President Biden has decided that states can have flexibility but said they would not be exempted from administering tests, however schools won’t be held accountable for the results.
Moreover, the quantitative research conducted by the National PTA organization shows that parents are in favor of testing
U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia, who chairs the House Committee on Education and Labor, said it best: “I think it is a bad idea to go into the next few months without knowing who is behind or how far behind,” he told reporters in early February. “If you don’t have any assessments, how do you know who needs help during the summer?”
In the days before mandated state testing, schools could hide their dismal service to these children behind vague, aggregated data that masked opportunity gaps from public view.
A coalition of national civil rights groups, among them the National Urban League and LULAC, recognized this last fall, when they wrote to the U.S. Department of Education, urging that testing proceed this school year. “We cannot improve what we do not measure, and if we do not measure the opportunity gaps being exacerbated during COVID- 19, we risk losing a generation of young people,” they wrote.
Have states gone overboard with their testing mandates? Yes. Subjecting students to weeks of testing is counterproductive. Drilling kids on test-taking techniques is a waste of valuable instructional time, I agree.
But instead of throwing out the entire testing regimen, let’s overhaul it, so that it measures what needs measuring, but through an efficient system of testing — a couple of days at most.
As for this year, why not limit testing to a few grade levels, and focus only on literacy and math? Do the testing in one day. I am confident that such limited testing would confirm our suspicions about the impact this year has had on kids, and will help us figure out a way forward.
I urge parents and students to dig into this issue for themselves, stay engaged, get informed, get educated and urge the administration to make decisions on what they believe is right for them.