In response to the Global COVID-19 Pandemic, the United States Department of Education adopted a policy to suspend all federal testing requirements for the 2019-2020 school year. This included all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia and the Bureau of Indian Education. Health experts believe that the spread of the COVID-19 virus will continue into the fall of 2020, although the impact will vary by community and location.
Most school districts in the state are still planning for another unusual year, deciding between traditional in-person learning, remote learning, or a hybrid of both. Along with the uncertainty of the level of preparedness by school districts, Professional Educators of Tennessee believes that the state should request a waiver of all federal testing requirements for the year 2020-2021. It said the state should request a waiver from all federal testing requirements, or at a minimum allow districts to petition the state to be exempted from standardized tests for 2020-2021. The state could also consider letting districts grant parents the right to opt-out of standardized tests for this school year.
The neighboring state of Georgia has already submitted a waiver to the U.S. Department of Education to suspend standardized testing for 2020-2021. This issue may become a campaign issue in the 2020 federal elections, as well as state elections. If the state does cancel testing for the 2020-2021 year, they could reinvest those savings to help shore up other COVID-related education expenses, including guidance counseling and addressing food insecurity. This could be at least partly dependent on the state’s assessment contract, which should be accessible and available for public record. Everything we do this year must be done with the health and safety of students, teachers, staff, and the community as the priority, said Professional Educators of Tennessee.
"We should anticipate and be prepared for public schools to have a disruption of services at some point during the 2020-2021 school year," said Executive Director JC Bowman.
"If the state does decide to move forward with testing in the interest of gathering data on how student learning is impacted by COVID-19 and changes to their learning environments, we believe that it is imperative that it is time to finally end the high-stakes connection between statewide assessments and educator accountability measures," says Professional Educators of TN COO Audrey Shores.
The Professional Educators of Tennessee membership generally believes that Tennessee’s assessment program is not serving student needs, especially this academic year. Most importantly, teacher accountability measures that are tied to state assessments will be a serious issue if the state moves forward with testing. "If the state does decide to move forward with testing in the interest of gathering data on how student learning is impacted by COVID-19 and changes to their learning environments, we believe that it is imperative that it is time to finally end the high-stakes connection between statewide assessments and educator accountability measures," said Ms. Shores.
For more information on this or any other education issue, please call (615) 778-0803.