When the school opened back up this school year, many people’s minds were on whether or not we would have standardized testing this school year. Standardized testing was canceled for the 2019-2020 school year as school buildings around the country closed in March and never reopened.
While the debate is divided across the country, recently, Indiana announced how two state tests should be administered this school year. IDOE released guidance for the assessments. My colleague, Educator Barnes, recently reported about this guidance in her piece “ILEARN & IREAD-3 Must Be Administered In-Person.”
I recently saw an Instagram post about standarized testing from an organization called Teachers for Good Trouble. Their goal is to organize and advocate for their local officials to cancel standardized testing this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They plan to rally teachers on what they are calling a National Teacher Sick Day. They have the hashtag #CancelTheTest. The National Teacher Sick Out Day is scheduled for Tuesday, December 15, 2020.
I wanted to hear from teachers and parents in Indiana about standardized testing this year. I reached out to parents and teachers across the state. From the voices of Indiana educators and parents, here is what they had to say when asked if we should abandon standardized testing for the 2020-21 school year.
Allen Mickens, Assistant Principal K-6
Absolutely not! Our students deserve to showcase just how much they have still learned and maintained through the entire pandemic. They have shown a ton of resolve and determination through this whole ordeal, as have those teachers in the trenches. We also deserve a chance to view and analyze valuable data that assess student success areas and gaps. We need as much data to drive decisions and lessen this achievement gap between white students and students of color.
Ashley Hogan, Second and Third Grade Reading Teacher
We live in a high-stakes testing era, and it’s something our education world has adapted to, especially in our teaching. It’s a fear of mine that if we try to cancel standardized testing, it gives educators a reason to slack off in their efforts to provide high-quality education, even though virtual learning. It’s proactive to take the assessment this year regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic because the test gives us data points. This drives our reshaping of instruction, assessing our curriculum, etc. If need be, provide the schools with the options to count the data from the standardized test or require all school districts to complete the test to acquire data but not count assessment towards their overall school performance.
Ashley Ford, Middle School SPED Teacher
Okay, so my perspective on standardized testing for the 2020-2021 school year is this: Absolutely not! I say this for several reasons. This is not a traditional setting for students to learn. They have been placed in a situation that they have no control over. They are home with little to no supervision. Little to no food and technology is not always efficient. Testing should not be in the conversation right now with education. My second reason is our special education students are affected tremendously by virtual learning. They already have delayed processing, cognitive development issues, and behavioral/emotional issues. Why add the extra stress of a test when getting logged in already is a struggle? Some of these students have bigger issues than a state test. Now, I am not saying to eradicate testing. It does serve a purpose for benchmark and to project and track growth. However, now is not the time due to teacher duress and everyone—students included—in complete survival mode.
Alyssa Middleton, Elementary Teacher
It’s unfair and impossible to get actual data when children have unstable internet connections. Some parents aren’t as involved in their education because they expect the teachers to carry the work’s brunt when it’s a team effort, even when we are in-person.
JaVaughn Hardaway, Seventh Grade ELA Teacher
Although imperfect, I think at its core, the purpose of a standardized test is to give stakeholders a baseline where students stand with the mastery of grade-level standards. For this reason, I don’t think it should be canceled this year. I think it should be used to plan for how to improve virtual instruction and to coach.
Sammy Jacobs, Physical Education Teacher
I am not a fan of standardized testing, but I understand the need for data. However, gathering data shouldn’t be done just for the sake of data. The last ten months have been challenging in every aspect of education. There is a need for data, but if we keep testing, the stakes need to be wiped away. We need to know where our students’ gaps are so we can fill them. However, these tests have significant consequences on stressing out teachers and students alike and having people fall into the abyss of teaching to the test. Not to mention the inequities between people. Not all students have the same access to others’ resources, and that should automatically nullify results. As Einstein said, “Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” You can’t tell a school they’re failing because students at another school can afford tutors, reliable Wi-Fi, and other amenities that help students pass these tests.
Jasmine Elliott, Educator and Parent
If we continue to give our students a quality education, whether virtual or in-person, I’m on the fence; there should be no excuse as to why we couldn’t test this year. My only concern would be the students who don’t show up for learning or are late and miss the fundamentals if you’ve been in school and have done your job as a teacher, yes. Do I like standardized testing? No. Do I believe we CAN test even though the current times? Yes.
Brandon Glenn, Instructional Coach K-6
We need to cancel the testing this year as there is nothing standard about students who were learning, and teachers were teaching. We cannot justly test students using a standardized measure that is supposed to test students assuming they all received the same education in the same way when every learning condition is not the same. If we want the best results, we have to give our teachers the training they need to be successful online teachers, and our students and family need to understand and follow through with expectations for online learning.
Kendall Krumm, Sixth Grade Teacher
Standardized testing has its place in education, but this year all standardized testing will tell us is what we already know to be true. We know there are racial and economic disparities in education and that the pandemic has widened those gaps even further. We know that Black and brown children have experienced more learning loss than their white counterparts due to the pandemic. We know that our families have been strained in every way, from losing jobs and loved ones to possibly even their homes and dignity. We know our children have been put in positions meant for the adults in their lives, but the pandemic has placed even more undue burdens on them while they sit in Zoom rooms playing student and babysitter to younger family members. So what will standardized testing tell us this year? Those teachers didn’t do enough to fill in the gaps; we didn’t keep people from losing jobs; we didn’t save those who were sick? No, It will tell us that we still have a long ways to go in uplifting those who have not been historically part of mainstream success and that it takes more than teachers who care to fill in the life gaps that standardized tests shine a light on and our public policy creators fail to repair.
Adrianna Norris, Elementary Teacher
As an experienced teacher, I’ve learned that academic gaps are linked to gaps outside of the learning environment. 2020 has caused learning gaps we are not adequately prepared to handle. Standardized tests should be put on hold until educators are trained on what is to come.
Jeff Mayo, Instructional Coach
Standardized testing takes a snapshot of how a child is doing on a particular day within particular hours. Students are asked to switch from learning at home to in-person, to hybrid, and still learning during a global pandemic. Our students are resilient, but families would be asked to bring their child in person for multiple days to complete testing. First, that is not reasonable when families are working to survive and come out on the opposite side of this pandemic, especially when our legislators are not giving ample relief and aid to working-class families to make it through this. Second, it will be a logistical nightmare for testing fidelity, adding additional, unnecessary stress to teachers and administrators. I would also like to add that I do not support a teacher sickout day, especially among the instability students are already facing this school year. Our job is to show up and educate.
Brooke Sanders, Fifth Grade Teacher
I believe students are not in the right state of mind, teachers have not been able to teach adequately, and there are more circumstances this year than ever before. Some students have been without teachers for weeks due to COVID; students are in person one week out the next. Students and teachers are trying their absolute best, but as we know, standardized tests are very difficult, and I know I have not been able to prepare my students this year as I usually would. I had to re-teach most of the fourth-grade math (because they missed the last quarter), which took me the whole first quarter to do. We are just now getting to the rigor of fifth grade, and the year is almost halfway over. I typically am not 100% against standardized tests either. I am always in the top three for fifth-grade teachers in math and reading (we have 15 elementary schools in my district), so I have students that perform well. I have never had a student fail that I thought would pass. So, in a regular school year, I am ok with it. I don’t think much weight should be put on it, and I take the weight off of my student’s shoulders, which helps drastically, but this year without a doubt, it is unfair to students, teachers, and school corporations. School grades will drop drastically, as well.