So, how much have students fallen behind during the school’s shutdown?

No way to tell since schools appear to have ignored a Federal gov’t mandate to do standardized testing this year to measure students’ learning levels in math & reading.

Let’s start back at the beginning…

In a long ago prior post, we reported results from a survey done in Fall 2020 that indicated, for example:

  • Students in 5th & 6th grades started the 2020-2021 school year 12 or more weeks behind their expected learning levels in math.
  • Students in grades 4 to 7 started the 2020-2021 school year 4 or more weeks behind their expected learning levels in reading.

Of course, we opined: It be useful to give students standardized tests this spring, as more of them  return to school?


There was some hope that the testing would be done … and, we’d have some calibration of how much students had fallen behind during covid.

According to USA Today , there was some reason to be optimistic…

Under federal law, states must administer annual exams in key subjects including reading and math to students in third through eighth grade and once in high school.

The requirement to administer state exams was waived by in spring 2020, when most U.S. schools shut down as a result of COVID-19.

But, in early 2021, a letter from Biden’s Education Dept. advised states that they will need to administer  the annual standardized achievement exams to students this year (.

There is some “wiggle room” to shorten the annual exams, administer them remotely or delay giving them until summer )or fall … but, “the Biden administration will not consider blanket waivers of assessments this year.”

Of course, not all sides agreed with the Fed’s announcement.


The Council of Chief State School Officers supported the federal requirement, saying that the testing requirement “acknowledges the real, varied challenges that educators, students, and families are facing across the country.”

And, based on a survey done by the National Parent Teacher Association,   a majority of parents surveyed favored end-of-year testing this spring “to measure the impact of the pandemic on student learning.”

Parents and educators alike expressed a desire for “meaningful data on student learning and progress to tailor learning going forward.”

That makes complete sense since the testing would calibrate how much ground students lost during the schools’ shutdown … and, since some schools remained opened (i.e. some private schools and some local districts), would measure the relative effectiveness of in-person versus online learning.


But predictably, teacher’s unions weren’t so keen on the idea of spring testing.

For example, the American Federation of Teachers (the nation’s second largest teachers’ union) called the announcement a “frustrating turn” for the Biden administration, arguing:

As the educators in the classroom, we have always known that standardized tests are not the best way to measure a child’s development, nor do they particularly help kids or inform best practices for teaching and learning.

That is especially true in these unprecedented times, when students and teachers alike are remaking the school experience in the most unlikely of circumstances.

Specifically, some opponents said:

The testing would take precious time away from in-person instruction this spring just when teachers are trying to reestablish normal relationships with their students.

Students are craving time with teachers and friends, and don’t want to spend hours taking tests.


At the time, we said:

Of course, the big question is whether Biden will hang tough on required testing this spring, or cave again to the teachers’ unions … as he’s done on schools re-opening.

You can guess how I’m betting on that one…


Well, fast forward to today…

Schools are shutting down for the summer … and, based on my local sample of both public and private schools, it doesn’t appear that any of the schools did spring standardized testing.

Why not?

In some cases, it was simply because teachers’ unions opposed the testing.

More broadly, most schools were operating in a hybrid environment and were accommodating parents who wouldn’t send their kids back to classrooms.

So, schools faced logistical hurdles: How to administer fair & honest testing when some students would be monitored in classrooms while others were unmonitored at home?

But, cutting to the chase, there isn’t much apparent appetite for determining how far students have fallen behind.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know so that we could put together some plans to get students caught up?

Strikes me that school boards should be worrying about that instead of un-naming holidays and revising U.S. history.



One Response to “So, how much have students fallen behind during the school’s shutdown?”

  1. Chris Wargo Says:

    I guess we’re among the lucky ones, as my 7th and 4th graders took their SOLs as scheduled (Arlington Public Schools). But I love this quote from AFT:

    “The testing would take precious time away from in-person instruction this spring just when teachers are trying to reestablish normal relationships with their students.”

    Kinda funny that my kids mainly watched movies over Zoom after they finished their SOLs. The moment there wasn’t a test to focus on, education more or less stopped.

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