We’ve begun a new school year with continued challenges for students, teachers, parents, and other learning guardians. Having spent the spring semester navigating the new world of widespread distance learning, we all hoped the 2020-21 school year could have started in person. Students across the country received a different education experience at home this past spring. In prioritizing student and community health, we’ve accepted there will continue to be variation in students’ learning environments for now—and this calls for a new look at assessments.
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While the National Assessment Governing Board decided to proceed with scheduled 2021 testing, most educators have no standardized testing data available from the 2019-20 school year. Research shows that students could be returning to school this fall with half of the expected learning gains in math. Without data from the usual classroom-based and state assessments last spring, one big question on everyone’s mind is how to know where to start this year when addressing learner needs.
Standardized assessments won’t make the grade
Standardized tests administered early in the year are a typical tool used by schools. Yet this pandemic has shined an even brighter light on the shortcomings of standardized assessments, as both Lorrie Shepard and Dylan Wiliam have recently written about.
While these tests can provide some information about where students are in their learning, they also have unintended consequences. For example, standardized testing often takes away instructional time and puts pressure on teachers who need enough time to deliver the intended curriculum.