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Washington State’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Offers Ten Solid Recommendations for Biden-Harris

August 26, 2020

Diane Ravitch shared an open letter from Chris Reykdal, Washington State’s Superintendent of Public Instruction that captures the direction Biden and Harris should take to help move public education forward. While I completely agree with all ten, the first one is far and away the most important. It reads:

Grant a national waiver of all federally mandated tests required under the Every Student Succeeds Act until Congress has an opportunity to amend the law. This will save billions of dollars and allow us to refocus resources on assessments that illuminate student growth and learning, are delivered locally, and are aligned to requirements that are properly situated at the state or local level, not the federal government. The USDOE should review and approve each state’s education assessment framework, but it is time to put the evaluation of learning back in the classroom with meaningful standards, trained professionals, and culturally responsive instructional practices.

I have long believed that the standardized tests, which have always been a measure of the affluence of school districts and not a measure of students’ ability, have driven instruction, particularly in those schools that are deemed “failing”. Mr. Reykdal righty places this as the most important reform necessary, but, unlike some of the reforms that could be accomplished through the stroke of the pen, this one would ultimately require both the House and Senate to reconsider ESSA. While I believe this is truly crucial to the helathof public schools, because it is one of the few bi-partisan acts passed in the last decade I fear that making changes to this legislation will be difficult. Should Biden and Harris win with a substantial majority of voters, however, those of us who are in favor of the abandonment of standardized testing should launch a concerted effort to overturn ESSA’s mandate for testing.

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