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The accountability hawks have decided that NAEP testing must be canceled this spring because of the pandemic, but the burdensome, useless, meaningless annual testing of every single student from grades 3-8 should not be disrupted. Betsy DeVos proposed canceling NAEP, and the director of the National Center for Education Statistics complied. There will be no NAEP 2021.
This is backwards.
If we want to understand the impact of the coronavirus on American students, NAEP testing should go forward. NAEP—the National Assessment of Educational Progress—has been administered to scientific samples of American students since the late 1960s. Since 1992, it has provided state-by-state comparisons. It disaggregates scores by race, gender, income, English language status, disability status, and other criteria. It measures achievement gaps among whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. It supplies the same valuable information for a score of urban district that volunteer to be tested. No stakes are attached to NAEP results.
In short, NAEP is the ideal gauge for measuring the impact of the coronavirus on students in every state and many cities.
The tests that should be canceled are the state tests mandated by ESSA, which every student in grades 3-8 is required to take. Many students will opt out. The scores rank students on a meaningless axis from advanced, proficient, basic, to below basic, or rank them 1-4. The mandated tests tell teachers nothing worth knowing since they mainly reflect family income and education. They do not tell teachers anything about what students know and understand since teachers are not permitted to see the questions or to know how students answered them. The results of these tests, useless as they are, have high stakes. They will be used to punish or reward students, teachers, and schools.
Yet NAEP will be postponed, and the state tests for individuals will go forward this spring! The meaningful measure will be canceled but the punitive and meaningless measure will be preserved.
HITTING PAUSE ON THE NATION’S REPORT CARD — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos before Thanksgiving added another item to Congress’ to-do list, calling on lawmakers to postpone upcoming national tests that gauge student achievement in reading and math. DeVos said it would be impractical to conduct the National Assessment of Educational Progress, originally slated for January, during the pandemic because “too few schools will be providing in-school instruction or welcoming outside test administrators this winter to ensure a sufficiently large sample.”
— DeVos said in a letter to congressional leaders that she was halting any further expenditures to prepare for the federal assessments. But she urged Congress to include legislation in any year-end government spending deal to “lift the mandate for 2021 NAEP administration and postpone the administration of NAEP tests until the assessment will be able to produce useful results, likely in 2022.”
— It appears that DeVos’ request has bipartisan support. The Democratic leaders on the congressional education committees, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), said in a joint statement that postponing NAEP was “unfortunate” but also “understandable” given the circumstances. And Sen. Lamar Alexander(R-Tenn.), chair of the Senate education committee, said DeVos made “the right decision” and that Congress should act quickly to provide the one-year delay. “I will work with my colleagues to secure congressional approval of this request in the remaining weeks of the year,” Alexander said.
If NAEP had been administered in 2021, it would have told policy makers precisely what they want to know, at a cost of about $50 million.
If the individual tests are administered, with large numbers of students absent due to the pandemic or opting out in protest, it will provide no useful results but cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Why would DeVos cancel the efficient measure while imposing the pointless measure?
For sure, it’s a win for the test producers but a loss for students, teachers, and common sense.