Standardized Testing: Helping or Harming Students?

Standardized Testing: Helping or Harming Students?

OKEMOS - Several Democratic members of the Michigan Senate introduced a bill at the beginning of March to pause the punitive use of standardized testing for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Standardized testing was suspended last school year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is set to resume this year by the order of the U.S. Department of Education.

The Democrats proposing this bill do not think it is fair to punish students for their lack of content retention during difficult times. A press release from the State Senate provided the senators’ thoughts on the issue, including Senator Dayna Polehanki’s sympathy for students.

“Our students and educators have faced an unprecedented and exhausting school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and should not be punished for circumstances that are out of their control,” Sen. Polehanki said.

In the Okemos School District, students have the option to elect for strictly remote learning or some in-person learning. John Hood, Superintendent of Okemos Public Schools, worries that standardized testing will impact learning as a whole.

“The standardized testing question is one that is a bit complex for districts right now. There is no way to deliver those remotely,” Superintendent Hood said. “We are going to have to come up with a way to bring kids in just to do testing. In a year when we’ve had a reduction of teaching, there will be further reduction to bring kids in to test.”

Superintendent Hood fears that the time it will take to bring students in for testing, while adhering to COVID guidelines and maintaining social distancing, will ultimately be an additional hindrance on learning.

However, students are still being assessed for knowledge and comprehension.

“What I don’t want the community to think is that we’re not assessing kids,” Superintendent Hood said. “If the state testing were waived, we have other ways to tell how our kids are doing and the level of learning loss.”

Another concern is with upcoming college entrance exams. Superintendent Hood wants to help students prepare for college, but not lose the opportunity to learn difficult class material in the process.

“We want to make sure we aren’t closing off any opportunities for kids,” he said. “But do we want to spend the time testing them, or spend the time teaching them the harder material that hasn’t been as easy to understand from home?”

So far, there have not been any decisions to pause standardized testing for this academic year. The components of the proposed bill include:

-Read by Grade retention for the 2020-2021 school year
-State mandate that districts evaluate teachers using student growth data for the 2020-2021 school year
-State mandate that districts evaluate administrators using student growth data for the 2020-2021 school year
-Requirement that Michigan Department of Education assign schools a “letter grade” for the 2020-2021 school year

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