Three months into the school year and we are still not entirely sure what will happen with statewide assessments in the spring. While the Department of Education has said that they do not plan to issue any federal waivers, many are still wondering how these tests will be administered, what they will cover, and how the resulting data will be used. DQC has been following this conversation since the spring; below are some things we are hearing and seeing from the field.
While many state leaders see the value in assessment data, some still have concerns about administering tests this year. Leaders from states including Indiana, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming have talked about the need for information on how students are doing this year. Meanwhile, state leaders from Georgia, Michigan, and South Carolina have been vocally opposed to this year’s assessments from the start. Recently, leaders from states including Illinois, New York, and Ohio have been questioning whether it will be feasible to administer assessments this spring, as well as the implications for equity and validity.
Since March 2020, at least six state legislatures have considered bills that would either waive statewide assessment requirements or seek a federal waiver for those requirements (GA, MI, MA, OH, PA, SC). Earlier this month, New York became the first state to cancel any assessments. Having previously ruled out holding any assessments in person, the New York Board of Regents determined it would not be possible to hold their January Regents exams in person. They have not yet said what will happen with Regents exams scheduled for later in the spring.
Some states have begun exploring ways to make assessments more manageable for families, schools, and districts. Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas have all announced changes to how tests count towards graduation requirements or end of course grades. State leaders in Tennessee and Wyoming have called for the full suspension of accountability this year. In California, state leaders are considering changing the test itself to include fewer items and take less time.
At the local level, district leaders, teachers groups, and parent advocates continue to call for the cancellation of statewide assessments this year. The most common arguments are the same as in the spring: student stress, teacher burden, and the need to prioritize on students’ immediate needs in the wake of COVID-related closures. Some are also now voicing concerns about the cost of testing, validity of testing data, or feasibility of remote testing. However, there remain education leaders and advocates speaking out for the value of this data in understanding where students stand and what they need to do to get back on track.
Although the question of assessments remains largely unanswered for the time being, state leaders will likely start to announce their decisions within the coming months. In this uncertain time, it is crucial that parents and leaders not be left in the dark. Administering statewide assessments this year is one way that state leaders can remain informed about student progress and identify where resources are needed. We will continue to monitor the debate as it unfolds and share our thoughts and insights.
This blog post is also available as a story on Medium.