April 26, 2021

David Gamberg: To Safely Open Schools, We Must Close the Tests

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David Gamberg is a curriculum director in New York. Blogging at School Leadership 2.0 in March, he explained why the Big Standardized Test is a bad idea for schools doing a pandemic reopening.

The use of standardized testing writ-large does not, and never will, serve the agenda of moving our nation forward in education — be it for students or school communities.  Any rationale for utilizing standardized testing to support the view that these assessments improve student learning and improve the effort to bolster student achievement in poor and underserved communities must be reconsidered especially during the ongoing global pandemic.

Beyond the fact that as of March 2021 we are still in the grips of the pandemic, the student experience since September 2020, when the school year began, has been anything but normal. The use of the existing assessment system at this time remains highly inappropriate. It simply defies any sense of reason, logic, or practicality in the face of an obvious alternative to “this is what we have always done.” As we race towards the eventual full and safe reopening of our school systems across the United States, we must now call for a complete abandonment of the use of the traditional metrics for assessing the performance of students, their teachers, and their schools.

As much as there is broad agreement to opening the schools, there should be equally broad agreement for the cancellation of having students sit for an assessment of their aptitude having spent a year in remote or hybrid learning.  To think that we can discern any legitimate determination of teacher effectiveness or student competency based upon student outcomes of the testing regimen given the uneven playing field that students in rural, urban, suburban, ventilated and unventilated school systems across this land experienced is as realistic as measuring a cup of water using a strainer.

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