We are now in the eleventh month since the COVID-19 pandemic impacted schooling in New Jersey and the lives of our students. School leaders and teachers have risen to the challenge every day to support our students and families under ever-changing conditions and environments. As principals and supervisors, you understand the current realities of teaching and learning in our schools today, including the challenges of staffing, engaging students in the learning process, the need for learning supports and the need for funding support to meet the safety, SEL and learning needs of all students as the pandemic continues to impact schools with no end in sight.
Despite this reality, the NJDOE sent a memo to New Jersey school districts on January 27, 2021, detailing its plans to require standardized tests this spring, even though the NJDOE can choose to apply for a testing waiver from the Biden Administration. The NJDOE will provide an option to administer the NJSLA remotely during the spring 2021 assessment administration (March 15, 2021 to June 11, 2021) but NJPSA believes that requiring standardized testing of our students this spring is simply wrong for the following reasons:
- Our focus should be on engaging students in learning, not interrupting that process yet again for standardized assessments. New Jersey did not administer the spring assessments last year and we are in no better position this year due to the ongoing pandemic.
- The data sought by NJSLA testing this year will not be useable by educators for any educational decision-making since the results will not be valid or reliable. We are still in a pandemic and operating under a wide variety of learning and testing environments. Conditions for testing will not be alike or even secure.
- Historic patterns of learning gaps for minority populations, students living in poverty, English Language Learners and students with disabilities have continued and intensified during this pandemic. We do not need the NJSLA to tell us this. Instead, we need the resources and effective academic tools developed by the field and the NJDOE collaboratively to assist all districts.
- Remote administration of the assessments raises new challenges. Districts do not have an adequate supply of devices to have one device for testing and one for learning for each child. As a result, devices may need to be taken from students (and away from the learning process) in order to be readied for testing and test security processes. This is an unnecessary interruption to the more important goal of continued learning for students whose learning has been interrupted enough by the pandemic.
- Academic integrity concerns are high. School leaders worry about how they can ensure that the student is actually the person taking the remote assessment.
- If our goal is to assess how students are doing and identify learning gaps, we have better ways! First and foremost, teachers have been formatively assessing students all year long, let’s talk to them, review their data and any district level data to develop school and district level learning plans that make sense for students and schools.
- Let’s look at the research. Accelerated learning approaches utilized in our classrooms are more effective than remediation which actually can push students further behind in their learning.
- It is important to prioritize the social and emotional needs of our students who have been deeply impacted by this pandemic in many ways. To add the stress of standardized testing on them at this time when the data will not be valid makes no sense and is potentially harmful to their well-being.
For these reasons and many others, NJPSA has urged the Governor and Acting Commissioner Allen-McMillan to seek a waiver of federal testing requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) just like we did last school year. Several other states, including New York, Michigan and Indiana, have already filed their waiver requests with the Biden Administration’s USDOE.
We simply ask for our state leadership to recognize the realities of our schools, the situation of our students and the recommendation of professional educators in the field to halt state standardized testing in spring 2021.
We Need Your Help To Pressure The Administration to ACT!
Email Governor Phil Murphy and Acting Commissioner Allen-McMillan today. By clicking these links you will be connected to the Governor’s and the Commissioner’s Contact Forms where you may type a message directly or upload a letter as an attachment if you prefer.
Tweet the Governor @GovMurphy and the NJ Department of Education @NewJerseyDOE.
Use the talking points above to urge them to file a federal waiver with the United States Department of Education of the ESSA requirement for standardized testing in Spring 2021.
Personalize your email.
Thank you for your advocacy on behalf of our students!