President Biden's decision to mandate standardized tests draws mixed reaction

Posted at 3:40 PM, Feb 23, 2021

There’s mixed reaction over President Joe Biden’s decision to mandate state standardized tests this year.

The move aligns with proposals from democrats who have pushed for testing to identify and address learning setbacks, but who say schools should not be penalized for falling short of goals. But it was blasted by republicans and by some teachers unions.

“I am so excited about the President’s decision,” said Sam Radford III.

Radford III has been an outspoken buffalo school parent for years. He’s the past president of the Buffalo Parent Coordinating Council, and he’s the current Co-Chair of an area-wide advocating group called “We The Parents.” He is applauding President Biden’s decision to mandate state standardized testing for grades three through eight.

“I think it’s very important, especially now, now more than ever that we know how are children are doing during a pandemic.”

Frontier Teachers Association President Amber Chandler disagrees with Biden’s decision. Her district is offering hybrid learning which she said has led to some students excelling while others have fallen behind. She’s never supported standardized testing, and that holds true even more so this year. “I can’t imagine that the data is going to be good. So, my concern is that we will waste time that’s really precious with our students.”

The decision does offer states some flexibility. States can apply to be exempted from certain accountability measures tied to the results and they will also be allowed to move tests to the summer or fall, or they can offer shortened tests or online assessments.

That’s why Erie Niagara School Superintendents Association President Michael Cornell said he’s not prepared to take a position on the president’s decision. “It’s difficult to have an immediate reaction because the state’s going to figure out and spend some time on how they’re going to treat the level of flexibility they do have,” he said.

Earlier this month, The New York State Education Department applied for two waivers for the tests. In a statement, a department spokeswoman said “USDE informed states last night that it will not grant a blanket waiver for state assessments. While we are disappointed by this decision, we are examining all possible options. Further, USDE made the right call in affirming that no child should be made to come to school to take a state assessment. In addition, USDE agreed to uncouple state assessments from accountability measures so no school will be affected by the results of state assessments and the results will solely be used as a measure of student learning. Given these circumstances, the Department will propose a series of regulatory amendments at the March Board of Regents meeting so Regents Exams would not be required to meet graduation requirements and to cancel any Regents Exam that is not required by USDE to be held. We continue to have discussions with USDE regarding this matter to find a path forward that is best for the health and safety of all New York’s children.”

The School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) released a statement that said it supported the New York State Education Department (SED) submission of an application for a full waiver from the federal government's requirement to conduct standardized testing this spring. "SAANYS and its members recognize that teaching and learning in our current environment is inconsistent at best. A statewide testing process would be extremely complex and inequitable, likely with reduced participation, and the resulting data an inaccurate reflection of what our students are actually learning and experiencing. The process as framed by USDE will not provide a comprehensive base of information on student learning loss or socio-emotional needs.

Teaching and learning this school year has been unconventional to say the least, and the insistence to forge ahead with a conventional testing experience for all seems illogical. The 'flexibility' in testing options offered by the USDE cannot cure the inequities imposed upon many by the pandemic. To truly understand what each student needs as we move forward, we must rely on the expertise of the local school administrators and teachers who have been working with their students each day of this unprecedented school year."