Schools must give standardized tests, Biden administration says

There is nothing normal about this school year: the temperature checks at the front door, the masks in the classroom, or the remote learning from home. Despite the challenges, there is one tradition the Biden administration wants to keep: standardized testing for students.

In a letter to districts nationwide, the U.S. Department of Education says it is important to understand the impact of COVID-19 on students. The department gives states flexibility on how districts do testing but not allowing the outright cancelation of exams.

That decision is drawing criticism from the nation's largest teachers' unions.

It's also a cause for concern for the superintendent of the White Plains School District. Dr. Joseph Ricca said educators are already balancing a delicate set of circumstances to be inside the classroom, let alone the many districts completely virtual.

"There is no good way to administer high-stakes standardized assessment when you're dealing with a global pandemic," he said. "There's no reason to do it."

Both the New York and Connecticut Departments of Education say schools won't be held accountable for the results and that states could still give shorter remote or delayed versions of the exams.

But some supporters say it's important. Dia Bryant is interim executive director at the Education Trust New York. The group advocates for students of color and supports the new plan.

"If we know that they were already victims of the inequity before the pandemic and now we've had a year," she said. "We really need that information."

It is important to note the previous director of her organization is now an assistant education secretary in the Biden administration and wrote that letter.

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