The Promise of Standardized Testing: A Tool to Target Resources Toward Kids that Need Support
By Ken Zeff, Ed.D., Executive Director, Learn4Life
There has been rising apprehension in Georgia about the role of standardized testing in public education. This tension burst into open conflict between policymakers debating whether these tests should be given at all this year. The US Department of Education has now decided assessments will happen this spring, which gives us the opportunity to gather valuable information to help accelerate learning. Fueled by substantial resources from the American Rescue Plan, we now have the unique opportunity to invest in students and strategies that need this historic support.
The federal stimulus for schools in this recently signed act represents a once in a generation opportunity to support traditionally underserved students. The share for Georgia schools is about $4.25 B, which represents about 40% of the state’s annual k-12 allocation. We know the pandemic has affected kids in different ways. Standardized assessments can reveal which students have been most impacted by learning loss, and allow us to focus resources on those kids who need the most instructional support. These targeted resources can support interventions like increased instructional minutes and high-dosage tutoring. This historic investment from the federal government, along with support from the business and philanthropic community, can be a game-changer by allowing deep investment in the kids who have had their learning most impacted by the pandemic. Standardized tests can provide the data we need to ensure those kids are the beneficiaries of these resources. Perhaps just as important as using tests to drive equitable funding, these assessments allow us to learn from schools that are showing better-than-expected progress. At L4L, we use Georgia Milestones data to lift up what is working. We visit schools that have implemented innovative practices that generate high outcomes for all students. We learn from these schools, and share their best practices across the region.
Concerns about state assessments are well earned because these tests carry a legacy of being used as a hammer instead of a flashlight. Yet, as we all seek to build more equitable systems in our new normal, state assessments can play a critical role in advancing equity by allowing us to invest in the most impacted students while simultaneously lifting up bright spots that can inform our long-term recovery strategy. The results may have been used to unfairly target educators and students in the past, but this moment calls us to look honestly and transparently at student data so we provide the right support to the right students at the right time.
Learn4Life, the Metro Atlanta Regional Education Partnership, is a collaborative effort that brings together school systems, local communities, businesses and nonprofits to improve education outcomes based on common goals and shared benchmarks.