Home > Uncategorized > Biden’s Broken Promise on Tests Revisited: MAYBE His Team Decided that Undoing a Bi-Partisan Agreement Was Unwise

Biden’s Broken Promise on Tests Revisited: MAYBE His Team Decided that Undoing a Bi-Partisan Agreement Was Unwise

March 24, 2021

Over the past several days I have gleaned a fat virtual folder full of articles bemoaning Biden’s broken promise on standardized testing. The sources include the Washington Post, Education Week, Forbes, the Progressive, and USA Today… and there were countless others that covered the same ground. 

The reasons for suspending tests during this year and giving policy makers a chance to figure out a better means of assessment are compelling. We know that not all students will take the tests since many students have “disappeared”. We know that many students were able to make a rapid transition to online learning because they had the connectivity and hardware to do so and it is a safe bet that THOSE students will outperform the students who lacked wither bandwidth or hardware. We know from decades of testing what the results will be: students from affluent communities or neighborhoods and/or with college educated parents will outperform students from poverty stricken communities or neighborhoods and/or with parents who failed to complete formal schooling. So what will the tests show us, exactly? Some policy makers claim it is necessary to underscore the deficiency inherent in online learning. Others claim it is necessary to show us how much “learning loss” occurred on the presumption that standardized tests measure “learning” and failure to do well on these tests means that students learned less. 

I am disappointed that the Biden administration did not seize this opportunity to postpone the tests with the stated purpose of replacing them with some other metric… but then… I looked at the long list of highly partisan issues he faces as he enters his Presidency. In his first few moths, Mr. Biden will need to deal with:

  • The January 6 insurrection: the trials of those who breached the Capitol, the handling of the elected officials whose fabulation of a stolen election might have contributed to that insurrection, and the possibility that some of the elected officials may have directly aided and abetted insurrectionists.
  • The mismanaged response to COVID-19, the so-called “Chinese flu”. The decision to federalize the response  resulted in uneven management of supplies and mixed messaging at the state level while the repeated use of the misnomer “Chinese flu”, often delivered with a sneer, resulted in the scapegoating of Asian Americans.
  • The predictable immigration crisis that resulted when Central American families sensed that new leadership in Washington might lead to less restrictive entry into the US. 
  • The need to mend fences with former allies attempting to address a multitude of complicated interdependent problems like climate change, regional wars, the imposition of authoritarian rule, and the refugee crisis that results from all of the above. Solving these problems will require consensus building and a major shift in the thinking of many voters. 
  • The need to restore faith in the government and competent leadership through qualified appointees. Mr. Biden’s challenges are best exemplified by the current state of the US Post Office where a Trump mega-donor is using the slash-and-burn tactics that resulted in several lost lawsuits in the private sector and whose actions appeared to undercut the public’s confidence in mail-in voting in the lead up to the election. 
  • The need to push back against 22 State AGs who do not want the billions in ARP funds earmarked for their states to be distributed based on the funding formula built into the legislation. 

And now, in the wake of two horrific shootings, Joe Biden needs to tackle the highly contentious issue of limiting the acquisition of firearms. Looking at this list of highly contentious and partisan issues, I can understand why Joe Biden might have decided to defer action on standardized testing. The laws requiring the administration of standardized tests were enacted with the support of both political parties and they will be open for debate when the funding for it expires at the end of this fiscal year. Moreover, he can point to the huge influx of cash he included for public schools in ARP and the many infrastructure projects that will help public schools as evidence that he wants to restore the public’s faith in their mission and purpose. I will hold my critique of Mr. Biden until ESSA is up for reauthorization, at which point I hope he will offer a new path forward for accountability. 

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