By:  Michael Stratford
Source: Politico

DeVos to enforce school testing mandates amid pandemic

The Trump administration plans to enforce federal standardized testing requirements for K-12 schools despite the pandemic, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced to state leaders on Thursday. 

DeVos told state school chiefs in a letter that they should not expect the Education Department to again waive federal testing requirements as it did this spring amid sudden school closures.

The decision to suspend testing requirements in March and April was the “right call” then, DeVos wrote, “given the limited information available about the virus at the time and the need to stop its spread, as well as the practical realities limiting the administration of assessments.” 

But as the new school year begins, the Trump administration expects states to carry out the assessments required under the Every Student Succeeds Act, S. 1177 (114), the main law governing K-12 education, DeVos said.

Some governors, including Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, and other state officials had asked the Education Department to consider suspending standardized tests during the coming 2020-21 school year, citing ongoing disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic and budget cuts. 

Richard Woods, the Republican superintendent of schools in Georgia, criticized DeVos’ decision. “It is disappointing, shows a complete disconnect with the realities of the classroom, and will be a detriment to public education,” he said in a statement. 

State officials from Michigan had also called on DeVos to again relax testing requirements. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, blasted DeVos' decision on Thursday, accusing her of "forcing high-stakes testing on our young children during a global pandemic."

"This virus has had an unprecedented impact on our kids, and forcing them to take these assessments during a time when families everywhere are working around the clock to stay safe is cruel," Whitmer said in a statement.

But DeVos dismissed those concerns in her letter, saying that — while it may be more difficult for states to administer tests during the pandemic — it is important to continue to measure student achievement and school performance.

“If we fail to assess students, it will have a lasting effect for years to come,” DeVos wrote. “Not only will vulnerable students fall behind, but we will be abandoning the important, bipartisan reforms of the past two decades at a critical moment.”