Quantcast
Connect with us

Betsy DeVos vows to require standardized tests again: 4 questions answered

Published

on

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore)

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced on Sept. 3 that the government intended to enforce federal rules that require all states to administer standardized tests at K-12 public schools during the 2020-2021 school year. Nicholas Tampio, a Fordham University political scientist who researches education policy, puts this declaration into context.

1. What did DeVos say?

Since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, U.S. public school students have had to take federally mandated standardized tests every year.

ADVERTISEMENT

Students got a break in the spring of 2020 when DeVos announced that states could apply for waivers due to the pandemic. “Neither students nor teachers,” she explained, “need to be focused on high-stakes tests during this difficult time.”

In September, DeVos reaffirmed her commitment to federally mandated testing. “It is now our expectation,” DeVos wrote in a letter to chief state school officers, “that states will, in the interest of students,” administer standardized tests at the end of the 2020-2021 school year.

2. How is testing data used?

As a political scientist who researches education policy, I know that money is the main lever for the federal government to influence states and local school districts. For example, the federal government sets conditions that states must accept to secure Title I funding, which supports schools where many children are being raised in poverty.

Only about 8% of the roughly US$720 billion that all levels of government spend on public schools
comes from federal sources. Yet federal education money is vital because it helps state and local governments boost their budgets for the education of some of the most vulnerable students, including those with special needs.

In the spring of 2019, the DeVos team threatened to withhold $340 million in federal education funds from Arizona. Why? Because the state had not complied with the testing requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind in 2015.

ADVERTISEMENT

In short, states may face a financial hit if they do not heed DeVos’ warning about testing. And if states lose federal funding, they may, in turn, cut their funding for local school districts.

In her letter, DeVos called federally mandated tests “among the most reliable tools available to help us understand how children are performing in school.” This data provides information to teachers, parents, policymakers and the public about how schools compare to one another. Without this data, in DeVos’ view, the American people will not have transparency and accountability in public education.

3. What challenges might schools and students face?

But getting good data during a pandemic may prove challenging. The recent precedent for large numbers of students taking standardized tests online, rather than at school or another appropriate public place, isn’t promising.

ADVERTISEMENT

After the College Board administered Advanced Placement tests online in the spring of 2020, students and their families complained when they were not able to upload their exams.

What’s more, research shows that physical conditions where the testing happens matters. If administrators cannot adjust the thermostat in a public school building, for example, it can skew test outcomes. As a result, I’m concerned that unequal conditions at students’ homes could make students who face economic hardship or have other challenges where they live score lower than they should – making their scores a less meaningful way to measure their academic strengths and achievements.

ADVERTISEMENT

In response to questions about whether testing will be feasible during the 2020-2021 school year, DeVos has asked chief state school officers to get more creative. “I am reminded of the old saying: Necessity is the mother of invention,” she stated.

DeVos also told chief state school officers to follow “the guidance of local health officials.” And yet, her letter lacks any specific guidance on how states could administer tests in case students cannot safely take the tests in public school buildings due to COVID-19 surges.

4. Could a Biden administration waive testing?

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s official position on education, as spelled out on his campaign’s website, doesn’t mention high-stakes testing. Nor does his campaign say anything about revising the Every Student Succeeds Act, which Congress must revisit and possibly change through an upcoming reauthorization process after the 2020-21 school year.

ADVERTISEMENT

In her letter to the chief state school officers, DeVos observed that “statewide assessments are at the very core of the bipartisan agreement that forged ESSA.” DeVos noted that a bipartisan coalition supports administering tests this year.

[Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]

One of Biden’s senior education policy advisers is Carmel Martin. A former Obama Education Department staffer, Martin until recently worked for the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank with strong ties to the Democratic Party that DeVos cited in her decision to proceed with federally mandated testing.

If Biden becomes president, therefore, I think it’s reasonable for schools to assume that his education team will only grant waivers, like the one DeVos issued in March 2020, in “extraordinary circumstances.”The Conversation

ADVERTISEMENT

Nicholas Tampio, Professor of Political Science, Fordham University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Mary Trump sues president and his siblings for cheating her out of family inheritance

Published

on

President Donald Trump and his sibling were sued by their niece, who claims the family cheated her out of millions of dollars.

Mary Trump, whose best-selling memoir describes a deeply dysfunctional family, filed a suit in State Supreme Court in Manhattan accusing the president, his sister Maryanne Trump Barry and their late brother Robert Trump of fraud and civil conspiracy, reported the New York Times.

The suit seeks to recover millions of dollars Mary Trump says she was owed from her own late father's inheritance after his 1981 death, when she was just 16 years old.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Mitch McConnell slammed for his ‘oddly specific’ promise to accept results of Nov. 3 election

Published

on

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) added his voice to statements issued by other Republican lawmakers assuring they would accept the election results -- which President Donald Trump suggested he would not.

The president refused to commit to the peaceful transition of power if he loses to Joe Biden, and McConnell and some other Republicans offered some sort of assurance they would -- although none mentioned Trump by name and some suggested Biden had made similar threats.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

WATCH: Public health officials rip Trump-loving mayor to his face after he links them to ‘violent mobs’

Published

on

Tennessee Mayor Glenn Jacobs came under fire from his own public health officials this week after he narrated a video that attacked them as "sinister" bureaucrats who were linked to "violent mobs" trying to install a "socialist utopia."

Knox News reports that during a Knox County Board of Health meeting on Wednesday night, several members of the board ripped Jacobs to his face for narrating and posting a right-wing propaganda video that claimed scientists were working with left-wing anarchists to bring down the United States.

Continue Reading
 
 
Democracy is in peril. Invest in progressive news. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free. LEARN MORE