Minnesota reading and math testing will happen but state requests waiver from data being used to identify struggling schools

Minnesota is moving forward with standardized math and reading tests this spring, but the state will likely not use the test results to identify struggling schools, reports the Pioneer Press.

The Minnesota Department of Education on Thursday requested a one-time waiver from accountability and school identification requirements in federal education law.

If approved, the state won’t use this year’s test results when it identifies the next list of low-performing schools in 2022. And the list of schools getting extra support from the state this year will remain the same next year.

Minnesota’s waiver application says the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) “will yield valuable information” for school districts and the state. But the data, it says, will be so varied that it should not be relied upon to identify schools in need of support.

“By waiving these requirements, we increase the quality of our next identifications for comprehensive, targeted and additional targeted support, leading to a more effective use of resources to advance student academic achievement,” the application reads.

School identification in 2022 will be based on MCA results, graduation rates and attendance data from only the 2018-19 and 2021-22 school years, department spokeswoman Ashleigh Norris said.

Even with the waiver, Minnesota’s teachers’ union argued the tests should have been canceled as they were last year — although, their pushback on standardized testing is nothing new.

But assessment data this year is perhaps more necessary than it has ever been, writes Andrew Pillow, a fifth grade social studies teacher.

As important as it is to have this information in a regular year, it is even more so now. … Virtually all students were subject to a brief pause in their education which would necessitate evaluation on its own. But upon return, so many students have engaged in so many different types of learning models. And unfortunately, in the case of e-learning, many students never even logged on. There are way too many variables and unknowns to not have some type of uniform way of measuring what students have learned or missed.

And while COVID-19 has “given people who were already opposed to testing more ammunition,” Pillow continues, “it’s important to remember that this is not about adults. It is about students.”

Not having data on Johnny’s reading ability doesn’t make him read any better. It just means that we won’t know how to best serve him.