Schools required to administer standardized testing this year

Just as students are starting to head back in the classroom during the coronavirus pandemic, they are also finding out standardized tests will be mandatory this year.

Last year, standardized testing was canceled as the pandemic closed school buildings across the county. However, on Monday, the United States Department of Education sent this letter stating schools have to provide exams this year. They said the testing will help schools understand the impact of the pandemic and how to help students.

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Loudoun County Public Schools’ mother, Christina Fedak, does not see the point during this time.

"Education this year has not been equal for all children. it has been up and down all year. I do believe parents should have the option to opt their children out of standardized testing. It wouldn’t be fair or realistic – really – to expect the kids to all of them do well on them or how they normally would under normal circumstances," said Fedak.

The department will offer modifications and alternatives. States have the option to give shorter, remote, or delayed versions of the test. Some education associations across the region do not support this move. Prince George’s County Education Association, Theresa Mitchell Dudley, does not believe this is equitable.

"If the students are in distance learning taking a standardized test, who’s actually taking the test. what other assistance are they receiving on the test. You can’t isolate the variables to see if it’s just that student. you also can’t isolate the variable that the students are taking the test in the same conditions," said Dudley.

Montgomery County Public Schools’ Former Superintendent Josh Starr said he believes there could be some good implications for the testing. For example, if the results are used to provide more resources to students who need the help. Aside from that, he does not believe testing during this time makes much sense.

"We already know who the kids who are most vulnerable who are suffering the most, who are falling the furthest behind the standardized tests won’t tell us anything we don’t already know for one, for two – it’s really hard to compare this year’s scores to previous year’s scores because it’s completing apples to oranges," said Starr.

The guidance issued yesterday by the U.S. Department of Education does reference flexibility for the administration of tests, including extending testing windows, which VDOE has already done.

According to the Virginia Department of Education, if a student declines to take a required SOL test due to concerns about COVID-19, the student's record will indicate "No Score" for the test (as opposed to a "0").

The Virginia Department of Education is reviewing the guidance. It should be noted that VDOE has already granted school divisions the flexibility to substitute local assessments for non-federally mandated SOL tests in writing and history.

Click here to see the Maryland State Board of Education update on testing.

The National PTA released a survey today that found 52% of parents do want end-of-year testing this spring to measure the impact of the pandemic on student learning. Support is higher among Hispanic parents compared to Black and White parents.

It is important to note parents do have the option to opt-out their child for testing. Parents – keep in mind this something you have to ask for, the option may not be provided upfront.