Biden’s tone deaf declaration of mandatory testing

In Mountain View, California, the public high schools are going back to in-person learning this week for the first time in over a year. They are doing a trial run where students who opted-in will attend two periods each afternoon except Wednesdays. For reasons that escape this writer, they have not had any live instruction on Wednesdays for this entire school year. The students will bring their chromebooks and sit in classrooms not taught by their teachers and do zoom learning but on campus. After this week students can opt-in for the remainder of the school year (about six weeks) or can finish the year online at home. Either way students are essentially continuing virtual learning until the end of the school year.

My question is this: with so little time left for any kind of meaningful engagement with schools, why are we still talking about testing? While some children thrived in the online environment, evaluating schools as if this was a typical year is absurd. It is a true outlier, an anomaly.

In February the Biden administration said that schools must give standardized tests this year. In March two states applied for waivers from annual testing. Biden said no. This past week the administration was unwavering even as many schools have not returned to any form of in-person learning. His outdated stance on testing is generating considerable backlash. In February acting Assistant Secretary of Education Ian Rosenblum wrote: ““President Biden’s first priority is to safely re-open schools and get students back in classrooms, learning face-to-face from teachers with their fellow students.” Biden promised all schools would reopen this year, and they have not. Yet, he acts as if in terms of education this is just any other year. Furthermore, in December 2019 he declared that he would end federal mandated standardized testing, a stressor that has seen backlash since its inception under No Child Left Behind. It is disappointing to see him not only not end federal testing but also to double down on testing in a year that has brought unprecedented stress to students, teachers, schools and parents. Biden needs to re-think his priorities in education.

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