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‘Grave Concerns’: Teachers Unions Condemn Biden Administration Memo Forcing Standardized Tests

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National and state teachers unions strongly condemned the Biden administration’s decision to prohibit states from canceling standardized tests.

State officials can delay and conduct standardized testing remotely, but cannot cancel the testing altogether, the Department of Education wrote in a letter Monday. In response, teachers unions lashed out, arguing that such testing would be unreliable and inequitable.

“High stakes standardized tests administered during the global health crisis should not determine a student’s future, evaluate educators, or punish schools; nor should they come at the expense of precious learning time that students could be spending with their educators,” National Education Association (NEA) President Becky Pringle said in a statement.

Pringle added that standardized tests have always been unreliable and are “especially unreliable” now.

The NEA and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have consistently opposed efforts during the pandemic to reopen schools and return to in-person instruction across the country. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released in January found that in-school COVID-19 transmission was lower than transmission in the surrounding community.

Standardized tests are important because it is urgent to “understand the impact of COVID-19 on learning,” Ian Rosenblum, acting assistant secretary of the Education Department, explained in the letter Monday. Students’ performance nationwide has plummeted amid school closures while other students have simply not showed up to virtual classes.

“As the educators in the classroom, we have always known that standardized tests are not the best way to measure a child’s development, nor do they particularly help kids or inform best practices for teaching and learning,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement. “That is especially true in these unprecedented times.”

A petition organized by the California Teachers Association (CTA) requesting the state skip administering 2021 standardized exams has garnered more than 40,000 signatures. The petition argues the exams won’t be valid, reliable or useful.

“Our concerns with testing during a pandemic fall into the categories of the feasibility of administration, the usability of the data, and the cruelty of putting our students, families, and educators through a high-stakes, summative assessment,” CTA President E. Toby Boyd wrote in a letter to Department of Education Acting Sec. Phil Rosenfelt.

Boyd said in a separate statement that assessments offer “little value.”

The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) joined the NEA, AFT and CTA in condemning the Biden administration’s decision requiring testing to take place. The union said mandating “stressful exams” is not the right way to support kids at this time.

“We have grave concerns that standardized tests at any level can be administered in any sort of equitable way,” NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene T. DiBrango said in a statement Tuesday.

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