March 2, 2021

PA Senators Open Letter To President Biden and Secretary Cardona: Waive The Test

Published by

This open letter was sent on February 23, the day after the Biden administration announced that there would be no test waivers for the spring 2021 test. The writers are Pennsylvania Senator Scott Martin (R) and Senator Lindsey M. Williams (D), the majority and minority chairs of Pennsylvania’s Senate Education Committee. The Pennsylvania legislature is not notable for any displays of bipartisan unity, but their unity here in opposition to unnecessary and wasteful testing is loud and clear.

Dear President Biden and Mr. Cardona,

Earlier this year, several leaders of the education community here in Pennsylvania wrote to you voicing their concerns regarding conducting education assessments in the thick of a pandemic and seeking a reprieve from federally mandated standardized testing for the 2020-2021 school year. As the Majority and Minority Chairs of the Education Committee in the Senate of Pennsylvania, we would like to echo the sentiments of our education colleagues and respectfully request the United States Department of Education offer states an assessments waiver for the 2020-2021 school year.

Over the past few months, we have spoken to many parents, students, and teachers who are concerned about the additional stress that this testing will place on our already overwhelmed students, who are navigating an ever-changing school landscape and vastly different learning models than in past years. What’s more, as COVID-19 mitigation strategies will require our teachers to administer tests multiple times to small groups of students, the larger class will be left without a teacher available for synchronous learning for the entire duration of the test administration. We’ve heard from many school districts that these COVID-19 mitigation strategies mean that they will need a significantly longer period of time than the six weeks currently allotted for testing, further limiting the precious amount of instruction time that teachers have with their students.

Many of our schools are beginning to return to more in-person learning. We should let our teachers use this opportunity to give students the supports that they need — to focus on teaching our kindergarteners how to be students in a real classroom, to teach our second graders how to handle money, to help our eighth graders navigate interpersonal relationships, and to give our twelfth graders as much of a senior year as we can.

Our students, teachers, and families have put in herculean efforts over the past 11 months to ensure that our students are safe, secure, healthy, and learning. We’ve emphasized the values of resiliency, community, and working together to solve the problems that we all face. Forcing these students into isolation within a school building through the sterile conditions required by the testing environment is counterproductive. What our students really need right now is time to feel like part of their community again — to have as much normalcy as we can give them. That doesn’t include six weeks of bare walls, strict testing schedules, and the rigors of institutional assessments.

We understand that there is a feeling of urgency by adults to find out as soon as possible how much learning our children have missed during this period, to quantify the learning gaps, to reduce the entire COVID-19 period to statistics. But there is a danger to rushing to this evaluation before we’ve made any effort to treat our children like human beings who need care and nurturing first. They are not data points in a funding formula. They are people who are going through a turbulent, confusing time and we need to give them some sense of stability before we thrust additional stress on them in the name of determining what schools “deserve” more funding. We know where those inequities in our system are and how we can begin to invest in repairing them. We do not need additional assessments this year to figure that out.

Thank you for your time and attention in this matter.

Share this:

Readers wishing to comment on the content are encouraged to do so via the link to the original post.

Find the original post here:

View original post