Suspend High-Stakes Student Testing (from FairTest and assessment reform allies)

U.S. Secretary of Education and state education policymakers

In light of the disruptions caused by COVID-19, waiving standardized testing requirements -- at least for Spring 2021 -- is critical. The time and resources required to test students this year would be better spent educating and supporting them. This petition was initiated by FairTest: the National Center for Fair & Open Testing and endorsed by the Network for Public Education, Save Our Schools New Jersey and many other assessment reform organizations.

Petition by
Robert Schaeffer
Sanibel, Florida

To: U.S. Secretary of Education and state education policymakers
From: [Your Name]

We call on the U.S. Department of Education to waive provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act that require states to administer standardized exams to students in the 2020-2021 academic year. We also call on the states to cancel their own additional testing mandates and to waive any consequences attached to their results, at least for the current school year.

Simply reducing testing stakes is not enough. It is critically important to suspend all government-mandated standardized exams so that educators, who know their students firsthand, may focus on teaching and learning, address students’ social and emotional well-being, and connect with families.

The use of standardized tests in public education has long raised concerns. Too often, these tests have supplanted teacher assessments of student performance; forced schools to focus on a narrow set of skills and subjects; limited opportunities for low-income students, students of color, English language learners, and students with disabilities; and penalized schools for test results without providing them with the support they need to succeed. Instead of being a good measure of teaching and learning, test scores have always correlated closely with students' socioeconomic status.

In light of the disruptions caused by COVID-19, waiving standardized testing requirements is especially important right now. The time and resources required to test students this year would be better spent educating and supporting them.

● The results won’t be valid, reliable, or useful. Teaching, learning, and testing conditions vary widely and continue to be in a state of flux. Since students will not have covered all the material the tests are supposed to measure, the results will not be comparable to results from other years or jurisdictions. We don’t need test scores to know that low-income children in poorly resourced schools have fallen even farther behind in a pandemic. In addition, more parents than usual are likely to opt their children out of taking the tests, further skewing the results.

● There are better ways to know how students from different backgrounds and learning needs fared during the pandemic. In addition to classroom-based assessments, sampling exams can provide data on trends in learning without distorting the curriculum or subjecting all students to standardized tests this year. Instead of more testing, we should be focusing on solutions that address poverty, racial inequities, and school funding disparities.

● Most parents oppose testing this spring. According to the Understanding America Study done by the University of Southern California, support for canceling the tests rose from 43 percent in mid-April to 64 percent in mid-October. The opposition is strong across all demographic groups but is especially high among Black parents, 72 percent of whom favor cancellation.

In a time of scarcity, funding must be used to support underserved and at-risk students, not enrich commercial test makers. It’s time to waive federal testing requirements and eliminate high stakes for state and local assessments.

Let’s seize this opportunity to provide better options for our students.
Our children, their families, and their teachers deserve it.