Bob Schaeffer: Big questions about the 2021 standardized test scores
Bob Schaeffer is executive director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing. He recently made a guest appearance at Valerie Strauss’s Washington Post blog to write about how people should respond to the 2021 exams.
Earlier this year, thousands of parents, educators and community leaders endorsed a call to suspend high-stakes standardized testing in America’s public schools because the results would not be valid, reliable or useful. Critics of testing have made that argument for years, but they seem especially relevant given that tests were being given during a pandemic that had upended education since spring 2020.
Nevertheless, testing advocates persuaded the Biden administration to require all states to administer standardized exams at the end of the 2020-2021 academic year. Officials claimed that the scores were necessary to see the impact of covid-19 on school closings — and they promised that the results would be used to allocate resources to students who most need additional academic help.
States are releasing their spring test scores, and . . . wait for it . . . the results are exactly as predicted.
Scores declined across the board, and historically underserved students fell further behind. So far, there’s little evidence demonstrating that data from this round of standardized exams is being used to address the pandemic’s expected impact, as testing advocates had promised.
It’s hard to find examples of states or cities targeting additional resources to schools serving the neediest students. Many companies marketing programs to deal with “learning loss” offer no independent data to validate their products.
Now it’s time to assess the assessors. Were spring 2021 exams really helpful in promoting academic quality and educational equity? Or was this just another politically driven “testing for the sake of testing” exercise?
To find out, education stakeholders should ask governors, superintendents, state legislative leaders, school board leaders and other policymakers questions like the following.
- What did you learn from spring 2021 standardized exam results that you did not already know about pandemic impacts on student performance?
- Have any policies been changed or educational resources reallocated based on spring 2021 test scores?
- How are you vetting firms promoting programs they claim will address “learning loss” to ensure pandemic resources are not diverted to unaccountable corporations with no track record of success?
Read the full article, with contextual background from Strauss and the complete list of questions from Schaeffer.