12 Aug When it comes to testing waivers, some won’t take no for an answer
By Dale Chu
Last month, a top deputy to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos indicated it would be premature to cancel state testing in 2021, saying, “Our instinct would not be to give those waivers.” His comments came on the heels of considerable buzz in Michigan, Georgia, South Carolina et al. that have already taken steps to scrap testing next spring. The remarks were encouraging, but annual assessments are not in safe harbor yet. To the contrary, the push to cancel state testing for good is just getting started.
For instance, in my former home of Indiana, the state schools chief recently said that the state will do “anything we can” to get assessment waivers. Lest one think these calls are coming solely from the usual suspects, think again: In Texas, the PTA has joined others in calling for the governor to seek a suspension of state testing. Considering that parents are one of the biggest beneficiaries of assessment data with its role as an honest check on student performance, the request certainly raises eyebrows. Moreover, in at least three dozen cities last week, teachers’ unions demanded a pause on standardized testing as part of protests against reopening school buildings this fall.
There’s similar scuttlebutt behind the scenes, with indications that some are seeking not only a suspension of ESSA’s testing requirements for 2021, but for subsequent years as well. It remains to be seen whether any such requests would gain traction on Capitol Hill, but as more districts announce a fully remote start to the school year, the question of another round of testing waivers creeps ever so gradually to being a matter of when rather than if. All of which is to say, the momentum against testing continues to snowball. And with the pandemic still raging, testing opponents smell chum and blood in the water.