USA TODAY US Edition
Many students may not take standardized exams
When the world of K-12 education spiraled into confusion last spring, many teachers and students quietly delighted in the disappearance of highstakes tests.
The multiple-choice questions and hours spent monitoring exams were suddenly gone. Schools pivoted to finding students and connecting everyone digitally. The Department of Education dropped the requirement for states to administer annual achievement exams in reading and math, which usually happens in spring.
“We’re living in a time we all dreamed about – there’s no standardized testing,” said Randal Lutz, superintendent of Baldwin-Whitehall schools, a district of about 4,700 students in suburban Pittsburgh.
“We told teachers: Go have fun with kids. Go teach the things you wanted to teach however you want to do it, within the state standards.”
But now those tests are coming back. President Joe Biden’s administration this week decided against another blanket waiver on federally mandated achievement exams this year, saying that instead states can delay or shorten the tests, or give them virtually – or skip testing remote learners.
States can apply to duck out of holding schools accountable for the results, the federal guidance says.
Teachers, parents and education experts have mixed feelings about the return of the tests, particularly around who will and won’t be tested and how the scores will be interpreted. Administering the exams only to glean information about student progress is a good middle ground, some say. Others believe it could lead to more money to support academic recovery efforts.
Still others believe testing students is needlessly stressful right now. They question the usefulness of any data that comes from statewide exams that can’t capture the performance of all or most students around the same time and under the same conditions. And they’d prefer in-class time be used for instruction instead of testing.
“The challenge is we have additional variables this year,” Lutz said.
“You can modify the tests, you can give them online, you can give them in