February 23, 2021
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Issues Statement in Response to U.S. Department of Education Guidance on Standardized Testing
SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent Tony Thurmond today issued the following statement in response to the latest guidance from the U.S. Department of Education on administering statewide standardized tests this year:
“Standardized tests are imperfect measures at best and often provide snapshots of student performance that are far too narrow to help educators in any given year, let alone during a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic.
“Most years, the results of statewide testing simply reflect the deep and systemic inequities that have placed generations of students at a historic, ongoing academic disadvantage. Those are the students whose families have been hit hardest by COVID-19—households in poverty and communities of color—and every resource dedicated to taking a test is a resource that could be better spent on helping students recover from this crisis and accelerate learning.
“Even as more schools reopen in the weeks and months ahead, it seems unlikely there is enough time to meaningfully prepare our students for statewide tests. And for the hundreds of thousands of students who still lack internet access at home, remote testing is simply not a viable option.
“The most valuable metrics we can use to understand a student’s academic progress will always remain the ones that are collected by educators and schools on a regular, ongoing basis in classrooms—even virtual ones—where individual relationships with students are fostered and strategies for support can be designed in real-time. The impacts of this pandemic have taught us the necessity of identifying and investing in better ways to measure learning that don’t involve high-stakes, costly testing that lines the pockets of a billion-dollar assessment industry. We should be looking for ways to reinvest in programs that support learning and offset gaps that have been exacerbated during the pandemic.
“Our students, families, and educators have experienced extraordinary trauma this past year. As our classrooms continue to slowly welcome students back in the weeks and months ahead, we must resist the urge to rush into stressful, high-stakes testing, when in fact our students will be in a better position to learn if we first prioritize positive connections, relationships, and their mental health and well-being.
“We recognize the need to measure the impacts of distance learning, and my team at the California Department of Education will be making recommendations that urge the U.S. Department of Education to provide maximum flexibility to our school districts this year by offering a range of testing timelines, including the option to delay assessments until this summer or fall if needed.”The California State Board of Education will consider updated recommendations at its Wednesday meeting, and the agenda can be found here.
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Tony Thurmond —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100