Of all the elements of American society disrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic, the delivery of education, both higher and K-12, might be the most damaged. Why? Because, particularly in K-12, our kids have been totally ripped from whatever passed as the continuity of their pathway to post-secondary readiness. The well endowed college and universities will suffer some disruption in delivery systems, but most of that has an opportunity to be productive in the sense of exploring the relative efficacy of online variations, i. e., a little “creative destruction”, if you will. And as for K-12, the top quartile of students will be fine and will no doubt make up for lost ground fairly readily. The brunt of the damage will be with the at-risk kids, primarily low income and minority, who have much less margin of error in their pursuit of post-secondary success. These students need to be back on track as soon as possible in order to avoid a slide in progress, and for this reason they need to be tested to determine where they are academically as they resume school and where and what methods are needed for remediation.
The suspension of spring assessments and accountability was the right thing to do, but the tests that measure accountability also are used for diagnostics and are a major component of teaching and learning. Some would abandon standardized testing altogether, but this would be a huge mistake. In Texas, the education agency released an optional end-of-year version of the state’s annual assessment, which is aligned to the state’s standards. Hopefully, the large majority of the districts and students will take advantage of them to help define the needs of instruction. And as soon as possible, the assessments and the related accountability should be returned to the system. There are probably many who would continue to defer on accountable scores, but this also would be a mistake. The sooner we return to mandatory assessments of progress and accountability for results by students and educators, the better for the kids, particularly those who are at-risk.