Whether or not schools should test students at the national and state level shouldn’t even be a question this year, but it is. Testing is a billion-dollar industry , and for testing companies and lobbyists, not testing means losing big money. Guidance from the top has been at a standstill as Betsy Devos has left it up to Congress to decide what happens next. Meanwhile, many states like North Carolina and Texas announced that they plan to test their students, despite increasing COVID cases. Other states are testing but without the threat of sanctions against teachers and schools.
As for teachers, we’ve had enough. The pandemic has ripped the bandaid off our broken education system, there’s a big gaping wound, and it hurts. We’re teaching students online and in person at the same time. We shouldn’t have to risk our lives to administer a test to students that is only going to show the obvious: yes, students are behind.
Fortunately, teachers are taking action to stop testing during COVID
Enter: Teachers For Good Trouble. Alfred, “Shivvy” Brooks started the organization in November. He’s an Atlanta based high school Economics and Government teacher who posts regularly on social media and hosts the podcast, Teacher Talk Live. Teachers For Good Trouble is made up of 300 teachers, parents, students, and allies from all across the country who have had enough. Their petition to stop testing during COVID is approaching 24,000 signatures and counting. The group has been extremely busy hosting virtual and in-person rallies all over the country and getting national media recognition. Their mission is simple: teachers of America coming together to do what is right for students, families, and educators. Testing students during a pandemic isn’t fair or right, they argue. Their members are speaking out about why we need to stop testing during COVID (and for good).
Testing students during a pandemic isn’t safe or fair
One of the group’s members, Ben Bruhn, a social studies teacher in Oregon, recently said on a radio interview, “If we can’t test teachers and students for COVID, why would we test learning? Because many of these tests must be administered in person, teachers’ and students’ health could potentially be at risk as COVID cases are on the rise across the country. Not to mention that testing students during a pandemic where they’ve experienced learning loss and don’t have equal access to technology isn’t fair. The data isn’t going to do anything other than confirm that.”
Testing or not testing? The jury is still out…
The tipping point? U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy Devos mandated that chief state school leaders should go ahead with state standardized testing for the 2020-2021 school year. She has since turned the decision over to Congress, and while she recommends postponing the NAEP test until 2022, she also writes, “I strongly believe that states should implement their own assessments on schedule in Spring 2021.” It’s not enough. Teachers For Good Trouble member and English teacher Shawndra Roberts says, “we need a federally mandated statement canceling standardized testing.”
We can hold students accountable for learning in other ways
Of course, we want our kids to learn, and we want to know where they are at, but what needs to change, Ben argues, is what that accountability looks like. “Kids show their growth in different ways, and growth is dynamic,” he says. No one is suggesting that we teach less or don’t hold our students to high standards. What we do need to do, the group believes, is rethink the accountability systems we use. Do we really need the SAT to determine if a student is ready for college? Who writes these tests, and how can we assure that the tests are fair when students all over the country in very different situations are filling out the same bubble test?
Standardized testing is just the beginning
The group’s name comes from a quote that Congressman John Lewis said. “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle or a day, a month, a year, it is a struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” It’s clear that Teachers For Good Trouble is in it for the long haul and ready to speak up for all of us. To learn more, what’s needed, and what this is all about, check out their website (they even have lesson plans for students to learn about testing and develop their own perspective). Because if anyone is going to present the facts and encourage others to develop and share their opinions, it’s teachers.
What do you think about standardized tests during COVID? Share with us in the comments below. Plus, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for articles like this.