Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond
California State Board of Education
1430 N Street, Room 5111
Sacramento, CA 95814
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
RE: Agenda Item 2
Dear Dr. Darling-Hammond and Members of the State Board of Education:
California State PTA supports postponing the administration of the CAASPP tests until the start of the 2021-22 school year. Such a decision would balance our competing concerns by acknowledging the current uncertainties related to school reopening while best serving all of California’s children. In particular, we believe that assessment aligned with content standards provides important information that can be used to identify and address inequities in access to learning opportunities. Such information is of particular importance in the current context.
Our organization agrees with many of the points made by Children Now, EdTrust West and their advocacy partners. Those include the importance of gathering as much information as possible for understanding the toll that distance learning has taken on California’s students. To reiterate from the letter they have submitted:
“The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting implementation of distance learning has taken a significant toll on California’s students, and we have scant information to understand the impact of these extreme circumstances. Moreover, we know students who were already marginalized before the pandemic have been disproportionately impacted by the negative aspects of distance learning and COVID-19. School and district leaders, students, parents and community members need as much information as possible to better understand these impacts and develop solutions centering the needs of these students. …
“During these times of academic uncertainty, it is even more important that parents have a clear understanding of their children’s academic status based on the state’s standards, especially compared with other students in their school, district, and in the state. Without these assessments, parents may have very little information about what their children’s academic needs are and how to best serve them. Families should also receive test reports with clear guidance about how to interpret and use the results to advocate for their children.”
However, we find the concerns from our state’s educators are also compelling. We share the worry that a statewide test administration this spring – while students’ schooling experiences are so varied between in-person, hybrid and remote instruction – is fraught with issues. Those issues include the likelihood of low participation rates and the challenges of administering the tests in a manner that produces valid results. We also find compelling their concerns that this year has already resulted in too much lost instructional time and testing this spring would just exacerbate that.
Therefore, our organization supports the idea of postponing rather than cancelling the summative assessments. Moving the test administration into the start of the 2021-22 school year would address many of the concerns about test validity and participation without completely abandoning this important measure of student progress..
Indeed, in his foreword to a January 2021 report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Fordham’s president Michael Petrelli validates this idea, saying “States should shift the spring 2021 assessments to fall 2021 when schools reopen. This will allow them to compute those all-important student growth measures for the 2019–21 period, plus establish a baseline for student progress during the 2021–22 school year.”
We understand from the CDE that the summative tests have limitations in terms of their use as diagnostic assessments and that the fall administration of the tests would create logistical challenges for local districts as some students will have changed schools or even districts. We are not oblivious to those challenges, but rather believe that they are outweighed by the benefits to student learning that would result from having a test-based assessment of where all of California’s students stand as “regular school” resumes. The shortened test blueprint helps to make this a reasonable approach while providing much needed clarity regarding students’ progress learning grade level content standards.
As the California Department of Education says in its own current guidance for parents related to the CAASPP tests:
- Summative assessments are critical, now more than ever, to providing administrators and teachers with high-quality student and school achievement data to track potential learning loss in order to inform teaching and learning.
- Statewide summative assessments are an essential component of an equitable, valid, and balanced assessment system, especially amid the disruption caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. They help provide actionable data for improvements and targeting supports to students most in need.
We also want to state for the record our support for the State Board’s prior decision to not use the 2021 state assessments for accountability purposes.
Thank you for the opportunity to give our input.
For more information, please contact:
California State PTA, Liaison to the State Board of Education
cc: Tony Thurmond, State Superintendent of Public Instruction; Brooks Allen, Executive Director, SBE; Rachael Maves, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, CDE; and Dr. Mao Vang, Director of Assessment Development and Administration Division, CDE.