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A new variant emerges: standardized school testing

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Variants of COVID-19 are cropping up around the world. Right now, New York is threatened by the U.K. and South African variants.

It’s an uncertain environment, and our public support systems are working tirelessly to distribute vaccines, promote best practices to protect ourselves, and fashion regulations based on data. All that, of course, begs the question: What is the Biden administration thinking when it pushes for reinstating standardized testing in schools during a pandemic?

The efficacy of standardized testing has been questioned since its inception. The No Child Left Behind Act, installed during the Bush administration, mandated tests in third through eighth grades. This decree, which remains in place to this day, has been criticized by teachers, parents, and scholars. Standardized tests do not accurately measure student growth and teacher competency. Regents testing, although a staple of student assessment for decades, has been the subject of scrutiny regarding its ability to predict later success for high school students.

Why is the government demanding that questionable instruments — which have been quarantined due to an outbreak of a deadly virus — be reassigned as a barometer of school success? Why would the U.S. Department of Education, within a new administration that insists that science will determine policy during uncertain times, stake out a dubious position regarding educational assessment at this crucial moment? Children are suffering enough with a myriad of disorders related to their restricted lifestyle. Instead of insisting on a tired testing regime that would heap more pressure on them, maybe this is the time for a moratorium. Maybe this pandemic has given us an opportunity to rethink our approach to assessing our students. Unfortunately, other voices seem to be holding sway, insisting that the old way is the best way.

Maybe we need contact tracing to see how these ideas are spreading.

Arnold Dodge is an associate professor of education at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University, where he serves as the chairperson of the Department of Educational Leadership, Technology and Administration.

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