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December 18, 2020

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, Representative Conor Lamb (PA-17) led a bipartisan coalition of Members in a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos regarding standardized testing during the coronavirus public health crisis. The letter urges the U.S. Department of Education to provide clarity, guidance and support to K-12 schools as they navigate decisions around student assessments. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have endorsed the letter.

"Since the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, our offices have heard from students, families, teachers, and school leaders who are concerned by COVID-19's disruption of student learning and effect on student learning outcomes," the lawmakers wrote.

"Many schools in the Commonwealth and other states are providing virtual-only or hybrid learning, and unfortunately, in most cases school leaders have been unable to identify when it will be safe for fully in-person learning to resume. We are committed to our students and understand that their futures rely on a high-quality education, which benefits from the close monitoring of students' learning through assessment. However, we are concerned about the challenges schools face in implementing federally required annual assessments during the COVID-19 pandemic."

The letter asks the Department of Education to provide clarity about:

  • Whether a waiver process similar to last year's will be considered this year;
  • If the Department will provide flexibility in assessment design as states may need to make changes to how they assess students because of COVID-19; and
  • What kind of guidance and support schools can expect from the Department on matters of testing and assessment during COVID-19.

"School districts across Pennsylvania are facing and overcoming unprecedented challenges to ensure their students are safe and learning during the pandemic. While assessments are a critical piece in helping our students stay on track, we know things will continue to look different through the spring. We appreciate Rep. Lamb and his colleagues for urging the Department of Education to provide additional clarity, flexibility, and guidance so we can continue to support and prioritize student success," said John Callahan, Chief Advocacy Officer of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

"There is no doubt that students need to be back in school as long as the appropriate safety measures are in place. But with COVID continuing to spread through communities at alarming rates, states need the option of waivers this school year. We should also think about more creative ways to assess students' progress such as year end and capstone projects, not just this year but moving forward," said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.

In addition to Lamb, the bipartisan letter was signed by Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1), Brendan Boyle (PA-2), Dwight Evans (PA-3), Madeleine Dean (PA-4), Susan Wild (PA-7), Matt Cartwright (PA-8), Mike Doyle (PA-18), Alma Adams (NC-12) and Lauren Underwood (IL-14).

Click here to view a copy of the Lamb letter.