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News & Press: Legislation & Advocacy

Testing Waiver for 2020-2021 School Year

Thursday, June 25, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Professional Educators of Tennessee
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

June 25, 2020

 

View Press Release

 

In response to the Global COVID-19 Pandemic, the United States Department of Education adopted a policy to suspend all federal testing requirements for the 2019-2020 school year. This included all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia and the Bureau of Indian Education. Health experts believe that the spread of the COVID-19 virus will continue into the fall of 2020, although the impact will vary by community and location. We should anticipate and be prepared for public schools to have a disruption of services at some point during the 2020-2021 school year.

Most school districts in the state are still planning for another unusual year, deciding between traditional in-person learning, remote learning, or a hybrid of both. Along with the uncertainty of the level of preparedness by our school districts, Professional Educators of Tennessee believes that our state should request a waiver of all federal testing requirements for the year 2020-2021. The state should request a waiver from all federal testing requirements, or at a minimum allow our districts to petition the state to be exempted from standardized tests for 2020-2021. The state could also consider letting districts grant parents the right to opt-out of standardized tests for this school year.

Our neighboring state of Georgia has already submitted a waiver to the US Department of Education to suspend standardized testing for 2020-2021. This issue may well become a campaign issue in the 2020 federal elections, as well as state elections. If the state does cancel testing for the 2020-2021 year, they could reinvest those savings to help shore up other COVID-related education expenses, including guidance counseling and addressing food insecurity. This could be at least partly dependent on the state’s assessment contract, which should be accessible and available for public record. Everything we do this year must be done with the health and safety of students, teachers, staff, and the community as the priority.

 



"We should anticipate and be prepared for public schools to have a disruption of services at some point during the 2020-2021 school year,"
says Executive Director JC Bowman.

"If the state does decide to move forward with testing in the interest of gathering data on how student learning is impacted by COVID-19 and changes to their learning environments, we believe that it is imperative that it is time to finally end the high-stakes connection between statewide assessments and educator accountability measures," says Professional Educators of TN COO Audrey Shores.

 



Our membership generally believes that Tennessee’s assessment program is not serving student needs, especially this academic year. Most importantly, teacher accountability measures that are tied to state assessments will be a serious issue if the state moves forward with testing. "If the state does decide to move forward with testing in the interest of gathering data on how student learning is impacted by COVID-19 and changes to their learning environments, we believe that it is imperative that it is time to finally end the high-stakes connection between statewide assessments and educator accountability measures," says Professional Educators of TN COO Audrey Shores.

When we make our education decisions based on unreliable or invalid test results, we place students at risk and harm educators professionally. We must question the reliability, validity, and accuracy of test results especially between traditional in-person learning, remote learning, or a hybrid of both. Reliability relates to the accuracy of their data. Reliability problems in education often arise when researchers overstate the importance of data drawn from too small or too restricted a sample. Validity refers to the essential truthfulness of a piece of data. By asserting validity, does the data measure or reflect what is claimed? Early indicators suggest remote learning has proven very uneven. And longstanding achievement gaps may well be amplified by additional school closures. Many K-12 students may have missed out on remote instruction altogether.

There’s still so much unknown about COVID-19 and it’s best to err on the side of concern for student and employee welfare than government compliance. Tennessee should request a waiver for all federal testing requirements in 2020-2021.

 

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee. To schedule an interview please call 1-800-471-4867 ext.100.

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