California Educator

April/May 2021

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Page 39 of 63

A M I D T H E C O N T I N U I N G campaign to suspend statewide standardized assessments, which would be cruel to students and of little use to educators and schools, the State Board of Education (SBE) voted on March 16 to give school districts addi- tional testing options this spring. e decision by the SBE to allow school districts the flexibility to use either state Smarter Balanced tests in English language arts and mathematics or standards-aligned local assessments to gauge student learning came in response to growing calls from edu- cators, parents and school administrators for more options. More than 70,000 CTA members and other concerned Californians signed CTA's petition calling for a waiver of testing, and nearly 6,000 emails were sent directly to the SBE. e SBE had previously decided to maxi- mize flexibilities offered by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), such as allowing remote administration of the tests, reducing the length of the tests and extending the testing window until summer, and on March 16 voted unani- mously to seek further flexibility to account for the impact of COVID-19 on California students, families and schools. "e board's action, coupled with our previous request for f lexibility, will give local educators and state policymakers important data on student progress while recognizing the realities of a very challenging year," says SBE President Linda Darling-Hammond. e SBE is seeking to allow school districts the flexibility to use the best assessment tools available in their local contexts this spring. According to the California Department of Edu- cation, giving school districts this f lexibility will help lessen concerns about students participating in extensive testing before they have a chance to re-adjust to in-person learning. New ly confirmed Education Secretar y Miguel Cardona indicated that ED would not approve blanket requests for waivers, reversing course from last year's decision allowing states to suspend testing. According to the Every Student Suc- ceeds Act (ESSA), all states that receive federal funds for students from low-income families and English learners must assess learning progress annually. Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, CTA President E. Toby Boyd says, educators need to focus on teaching, not testing. "Under the best circumstances, test scores alone fail to tell us how a child is doing and where they need improvement," Boyd says. "We need to focus our time and energy on meeting the challenges of the distance learning environment, narrowing the digital divide, and fulfilling the needs of all students — not forcing tests on our kids during a health crisis." "We need to focus on meeting the challenges of distance learning, the digital divide, and fulfilling the needs of all students — not forcing tests on our kids during a health crisis." —CTA President E. Toby Boyd CTA Wins Testing Flexibility State Board gives schools options beyond summative tests By Julian Peeples #CancelTheTests NEA is calling for standardized tests to be canceled nationwide during the pandemic. "Students are navigating the most difficult year of learning in modern history. The last thing they need is ... a stressful test that will not be an effective barometer of their needs and accomplishments," says NEA's letter to the U.S. Department of Education. Add your name in support at 38 Advocacy

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