Chiefs for Change appreciates the flexibility granted to states from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) regarding their ESEA assessment and accountability systems this school year and ED’s suggestions for how states may adjust their assessment protocols in light of current conditions. We applaud ED for recognizing that the accountability systems currently in place in states may be difficult to implement given the circumstances states and local school districts are facing during this pandemic. We also appreciate that ED recognizes it might not be possible to test every student this school year.
While we welcome the opportunity for states to obtain waivers of some of the ESEA requirements this spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we reiterate our support for statewide assessments and are pleased ED is not granting full-scale assessment waivers. Assessments are important in understanding student academic achievement levels across the state, including the effect of the pandemic on student learning. Although this school year is different from previous ones, we are pleased that states will administer state tests this year, with necessary variations that consider each state’s situation. It is also important for ED to make getting students back to in-person learning this school year a top priority.
The pandemic provides us with a unique moment to rethink the current assessment and accountability system. At the same time, we cannot completely halt the current system without a valid and comprehensive alternative. Given the uncertainty resulting from the pandemic, states and school districts need to understand each student’s learning to address learning loss and gaps that will exist among students, especially students of color. These tests, whatever they may look like this school year, are more important than ever.