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Reflections on What Pandemic-Related State Test Waiver Requests Suggest About the Priorities for the Use of Tests
CALDER Policy Brief No. 26-0721
Students’ performance on standardized tests is clearly predictive of their later outcomes (Goldhaber & Özek, 2019) but whether the costs of administering tests are justified by the value of the tests for improving students’ outcomes is controversial. This controversy fuels heated debates over federal testing requirements, such as those instituted under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and continued under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). All ESSA-required tests were canceled in the 2019-20 school year due to COVID-19, and there was significant political debate about whether they ought to be required in 2020-21. Ultimately the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) allowed for some testing flexibility in the form of ESSA waivers.
In this policy brief, we outline some of the common ways states might use tests to improve student outcomes and the implications of requested and approved waivers on these uses. In particular, we highlight features of waiver requests that are especially important if tests are to be used by specific actors (e.g., families) to benefit students in specific ways. We conclude with a discussion of how testing policy needs to be designed if statewide tests are going to both be useful and maintain political support.
Citation: Paul Bruno, Dan Goldhaber (2021). Reflections on What Pandemic-Related State Test Waiver Requests Suggest About the Priorities for the Use of Tests. CALDER Policy Brief No. 26