Biden mandates end-of-year tests

States, Cardona fight back against standardized tests during a pandemic 

By Tyler Clifton, Guest Writer
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Teachers’ unions have opposed the Biden administration’s proposal to continue in-person standardized testing, citing concerns over COVID-19 exposure risks, possible academic dishonesty and the tests’ accuracy.

The Biden administration announced on Feb. 23 that they would mandate testing on student learning at the end of the school year.  

This is a reversal of testing waiver policies designed last March by the Trump administration because of the pandemic as schools nationwide transitioned to online learning.  

Such testing in its current form has been in place for the past 20 years, with requirements to test once a year in math and reading in grades three through eight and once in high school. Results from these tests must be publicly reported, and schools could face sanctions if scores fall too low. Federally, at least 95 percent of students are required to participate in testing.  

However, there are already states fighting against these requirements. Ohio, California, New York, Michigan and Georgia have all submitted requests for waivers, which would allow them to cancel or postpone state testing.  

Federal Acting Assistant Education Secretary Ian Rosenblum wrote that there will be no consideration for “blanket waivers of assessments” this year, meaning that the Biden administration does not plan to cancel all tests in any state or district. Instead, the administration would consider modifications or postponements of standardized testing.  

In Georgia’s appeal, the state’s Department of Education emphasized that their students were still dealing with the mental challenges brought on by the pandemic.  

This sentiment has been reflected in other aspects of pandemic-age education as well. Elementary and high schools are now required to report on several new factors which may be relevant to understanding their extenuating circumstances surrounding standardized testing.  

Chronic absenteeism is a main focus of federal reporting. If possible, schools are also expected to report information on their students’ access to computers and the internet for remote learning. 

These announcements by the Biden administration were made before the Monday confirmation of Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona. The secretary noted during his hearing that he believed assessing students’ progress was important; however, he emphasized that he was against gathering students in person and risking potential COVID-19 exposure to give an exam. 

Educators have found themselves divided on this issue, and this debate has extended into the Xavier community.   

Xavier education professor Dr. Jody Googins thinks that the pandemic has highlighted the “opportunity gap” that exists in education in this country. 

“For the most part, curriculum was designed to be in person,” Googins pointed out. “When we take away the ability to come to school, certainly it exacerbates the situation.”  

Among those who are staunchly opposed to this decision are teachers’ unions. President of the National Education Association, Becky Pringle voiced her opposition to standardized testing, during a pandemic or otherwise. 

“Standardized tests have never been (a) valid or reliable measure of what students know and are able to do, and especially unreliable now,” Pringle said.  

Concerns over the accuracy and security of online tests are common.  

Some opposers believe programs such as Respondus Lockdown Browser can only do so much in an attempt to prevent cheating. They assert that a score is less likely to give an accurate portrayal of the student’s mastery of the topics that year.