August 3, 2020
Statement on a Principled Approach to Testing in Unprecedented Times

The Chiefs for Change Board of Directors today issued the following statement on behalf of the membership.

Families and educators across the country are worried their kids have fallen behind academically and will fall further behind in the school year ahead. These concerns are greater for students from low-income families and historically disadvantaged backgrounds, who on average experience greater setbacks during time out of school.

Tests that verify what students have and have not learned are more important now than ever before, even if traditional state tests and accountability systems may not be feasible. This is why it is unacceptable for state leaders to call for a wholesale suspension of all state-required tests without offering an alternative vision that assures the rights of all children to learn, even amidst a pandemic. We write today to urge that policymakers adopt a practical but principled approach in these unique times.

We call on Congressional leaders and the U.S. Secretary of Education to:

  • Be patient in making any decision that would change federal requirements related to state testing. Determinations can be made later in the school year when more is known about the pandemic’s duration and about the feasibility of testing.
  • Require that states continue to collect and report non-test-based measures of student and school performance such as graduation rates; AP results; attendance; online engagement and connectivity (where relevant); and FAFSA completion by school and student group.
  • Allow states and districts to use future federal stimulus funds toward adapting their standards-aligned tests, as needed, to measure student learning (and provide reliable information on grade-level performance), in the event students are unable to be tested under typical conditions. Alternate plans could involve administering and reporting the results of state tests administered in remote locations, state analysis of district-based interim tests, or tests administered to smaller samples within the larger population (with sufficient numbers to validly disaggregate by student group down to the school level, so that the assessments can serve their historic civil rights purpose).
  • Allow states to freeze school ratings awarded based on 2019 results. Schools will be opening under highly unique circumstances that make such rating systems less valid in the 2020-2021 school year.
  • Require states to identify low-performing schools based on the most recent results and continue intervention in those schools, per state ESSA plans.
  • Continue to administer the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Also known as the Nation’s Report Card, NAEP is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas, making it a useful tool for tracking student achievement over time.

We call on state leaders to:

  • Adhere to guidance issued by the Council of Chief State School Officers related to appropriate use of all assessments in this unique time.
  • Implement standards-based state tests to every extent practicable in the 2020-2021 school year.
  • Develop alternate plans to collect evidence of student learning based on standards-based tests (that provide reliable information on grade-level performance) in the event traditional state testing cannot be feasibly implemented, and plan to allocate funds necessary to do this.
  • Continue to intervene in persistently struggling schools and with persistently struggling groups of students, even in the absence of federal requirements to update school ratings.

COVID-19 has forced us to rethink nearly every facet of schooling. Assessments are no exception. While the current crisis may require a new approach, we must maintain our commitment to this foundational aspect of our work to ensure every child receives an excellent education.