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Open Letter: Cancel the Standardized Testing Mandate for Spring 2021

The Schott Foundation is proud to add our name, alongside our longtime partners and allies, to this open letter to Dr. Miguel Cardona, President Biden's pick for Secretary of Education. It's time to follow up on candidate Biden's promise on standardized tests: cancel the spring 2021 testing mandate.

To: Secretary of Education Nominee, Miguel Cardona

​Dear Dr. Cardona:

On December 14, 2019, President Joe Biden participated in the 2020 Public Education Forum held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Early childhood expert, Dr. Denisha Jones, explained the damage done by standardized testing and then asked, “If you are elected President, will you commit to the ending of standardized testing in public schools?”

Joe Biden's response was immediate, direct, and clear. “Yes.” He continued, passionately declaring that “teaching to a test underestimates and discounts the things that are most important for students to know.” As you listen to his full remarks regarding why he is opposed to standardized testing, you will hear the authentic response of someone who is not only married to a teacher but who, growing up with a disability, may have felt the brunt of standardized testing himself.

We, the undersigned understand that the pandemic has inflicted enormous social, emotional, physical, and academic harm on America’s children. We also know that the consequences of the pandemic have not fallen equally on some children’s shoulders. Those who were disadvantaged prior to Covid-19 are bearing a disproportionate weight from experiencing more loss, more hunger, and more stress than their more affluent peers.

It does not take a standardized assessment to know that for millions of America’s children, the burden of learning remotely, either full- or part-time, expands academic learning gaps between haves and have nots. Whenever children are able to return fully to their classrooms, every instructional moment should be dedicated to teaching, not to teasing out test score gaps that we already know exist. If the tests are given this spring, the scores will not be released until the fall of 2021 when students have different teachers and may even be enrolled in a different school. Scores will have little to no diagnostic value when they finally arrive. Simply put, a test is a measure, not a remedy.

To believe that it is impossible for teachers to identify and address learning gaps without a standardized test is to have a breathtaking lack of faith in our nation’s teachers. The President made it clear in his remarks that he believes in the ability of teachers to identify what students do and do not know; we hope that you do, too.

Like the President, some of us who sign this letter reject the need for the standardized testing regimes that exploded over the past quarter-century. Others conclude that such testing has a limited role. However, we all maintain that at this moment in time, it is in the best interest of children that the U.S. Department of Education lift the mandate for annual testing this spring.

We hope that you agree with the sentiments of President Biden and with us, and upon your confirmation immediately cancel the 2021 testing mandate.

Respectfully submitted by the 74 national, state and local organizations who signed below and the 10,732 Americans who, to date have signed as well. You can find their names here.

The Network for Public Education

The Schott Foundation for Public Education

National Center for Fair & Open Testing, Inc. (FairTest)

The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS)

Journey for Justice Alliance

In The Public Interest

The National Superintendents Roundtable

Defending the Early Years

Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools

Arizona Educators United

BASD (Bethlehem Area School District) joe biden.

Badass Teachers Association (BATs)

Bay Area Collective Keeping Privatizers Away from Community Schools BACKPACS

Broward BATs

California Educators United

Children Are More Than Test Scores

Citizens for Public Schools, Boston, Massachusetts

Class Size Matters

Coalition for Equity

Connecticut Public School Advocates

Educators for Democratic Schools

Florida BATs

Florida Council of Churches

Fund Education NOW Florida

Illinois Families for Public Schools

Indiana Coalition for Public Education

Indiana Coalition for Public Education — Monroe County

Iowans for Public Education

It Takes a Village

It Takes a Village to Tackle HB70

Long Island Opt Out

MI CORE (Michigan Caucus of Rank and File Educators)

MI Ed Justice

Miami-Dade County Public School Parents (MDCPS Parents)

Michigan Collective for Equity in Education

National Educators United

New Rochelle FUSE (Federation United School Employees)

New York State Allies for Public Education

Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education

Northwest Indiana Coalition for Public Education

Northwest Ohio Friends of Public Education

Ohio BATs

Opt Out Georgia

Oregon BATs

Oregon Save our Schools

Parent Coalition for Student Privacy

Parents for Public Schools — National

Parents for Public Schools Greenwood and LeFlore County (Mississippi)

Pastors for Florida Children

Pastors for North Carolina Children

Pastors for Oklahoma Children

Pastors for Tennessee Children

Pastors for Texas Children

Public Education Matters Georgia

Public Education Partners (Ohio)

Public Schools First NC

Raise Your Hand Illinois

Rethinking Schools

Rochester Coalition for Public Education

Save Michigan’s Public Schools

Save our Schools New Jersey

Save our Schools North Carolina

School and Communities United Milwaukee

Step Up Louisiana

Support Our Students Alabama

Tennessee BATs

The New Bedford Coalition to Save Our Schools

​The Public Science Project at the CUNY Graduate Center

United for Florida Children

Washington Township Parent Council Network of Indianapolis

Wear Red for Ed

Wellstone Democratic Club

When Public Schools Reopen

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