There is a spirited debate occurring in Colorado, and around the country, over conducting standardized state tests this year, amid the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. I recognize that this issue is a controversial one.
Some argue that this is not an appropriate time to administer standardized tests. The African Leadership Group, however, and I, as its founder and leader, take a different position.
Ultimately, it comes down to a couple of basic questions. If we fail to administer year-end tests for the second year in a row, how will we, as parents and community members, understand what students know and don’t know, and how this past year of interrupted in-person school has impeded student learning? And how will state and local policymakers have the information they need to address any gaps?
I believe there are three important factors to consider:
- The pandemic has not affected every community in the same way. Some communities have suffered more than others. We need a reliable and comparable way to measure the impact—across districts and student groups—so we can provide and prioritize help to those who need it the most.
- In 2021, the most important purpose of year-end testing is to identify how pandemic-related adjustments to instruction have affected student learning. For most students, online learning has proved to be frustrating and far less effective than the in-person experience. Parents are worried about it. In a recent poll, 62% of Coloradans said they support end-of-year statewide testing to assess student learning loss.
- Local and state policymakers need information gleaned from state tests so they can analyze across schools, districts, and subgroups of students to devise policies and target funding in ways that will help ameliorate learning loss and growing opportunity gaps.
For all of these reasons, the African Leadership Group—along with a diverse coalition of community organizations—has encouraged education leaders at the state and district levels to ensure all students participate in statewide assessments this year. There might need to be adjustments to schedules, and the assessments might have to be scaled back. This year, the assessments should not be used in teacher evaluations or any kind of school rating. That would be unfair.
We strongly oppose efforts from some interest groups to cancel testing altogether this year, and we hope and trust that state officials will not bow to that pressure.