Schools must give standardized tests despite pandemic concerns


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Despite pleas from many educators across the country to cancel standardized testing due to the pandemic, the Biden administration announced testing will be required.

“I was quite disappointed,” said Clovis Gallon.

Gallon is a special education teacher in the York City School District. He says he has seen firsthand the added stress the pandemic has put on students and staff and now they have to prepare for standardized testing.

“Do you really want to put all that added pressure on the staff and the students? I think it is inappropriate at this time, but that is just my opinion,” Gallon said.

Standardized testing is federally mandated. If schools don’t participate they can lose funding. According to the Pa. Department of Education, the results determine the needs of individual students as well as overall performance on the district, county, and statewide levels.

“I would hope that they would not utilize these scores to negatively impact the district,” Gallon said.

“We recognize the challenges in regards to what we have seen because of the pandemic this past year and what we have done is really eliminate some of the high stakes aspects associated with assessments,” said Noe Ortega, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education.

According to the Pa. Department of Education, “Pennsylvania will not use any assessment results that derive from a pandemic year for any high-stakes purpose, including school improvement designations”.

“The most important thing is going to be for us to use the results in ways that are appropriate and meaningful, so when the results come in we will be looking at those for whatever insights we can gather including the impacts the pandemic has had,” said Matt Stem, Deputy Secretary, Pennsylvania Department Education.

School districts will also have more flexibility with the tests this year.

“So we are allowing districts to administer the assessment to smaller groups of students and we are allowing districts to assess as late as into next September,” said Stem.

In Pennsylvania, you can only opt out of the tests for religious reasons. According to a 2019 report on standardized tests in Pennsylvania, in the 2017-2018 school year there were more than 16,000 religious opt-outs for the PSSA. The report also indicates parent refusal makes up 14% of the exclusion factors.

“I would say that there is going to be a higher percentage of parents that opt-out of standardized testing this year than normal,” Gallon said.

Too many opt-outs can be a concern. To meet federal requirements school districts need at least 95% of students to participate in the assessments.

Last year the U.S. Department of Education waived assessments due to the pandemic. Schools still received federal funding.

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