Public Education Advocate and Fund Education Now associate Marie-Claire Leman testified largely in support of SB 7070 , Impact of COVID-19 on Educational Institutions, at today’s Senate Education Committee, which provides relief from the punitive measures associated with high stakes testing. SB 7070 expands on the success of Sen. Perry Thurston’s similar SB 886, COVID-19 Impact on School Accountability, passing by a healthy bipartisan vote (3/2/21) in Senate Education with Sen. Manny Diaz voting no. It appears that SB 7070 is a rare result of bi-partisan collaboration and it passed unanimously.
A big thank you goes to Marie-Claire who praised the bill and asked that the committee reconsider issuing school grades in a year when they would be particularly unreliable, putting our most vulnerable students and schools at risk. Both Senator Perry Thurston and Committee Chairman Joe Gruters made comments regarding her suggestions during committee discussion.
Read Marie-Claire Leman’s complete testimony here:
“I’m not here to ask you to vote against SB 7070. This bill is an astute response to concerns raised by many of you and many of us over here in this room about the high stakes of FSA testing, made even higher this year due to the pandemic and its varying effects on districts, schools, and students.
There are a number of good provisions here for which we are very appreciative:
- Holding 3rd graders harmless by not determining their retention in 3rd grade based on their performance on the FSA
- Allowing parents to request that their 3rd grader be retained in 3rd grade next year
- Holding harmless students who would otherwise graduate this year but have not obtained a passing score on the 10th grade ELA FSA or the Algebra I EOC.
- Holding teachers harmless from their students’ results on this year’s FSA.
However, we caution you against issuing school grades this year. We have plenty of data from progress monitoring aligned to standards to determine eligibility to the School Recognition Program or to establish that a school can exit from turnaround status.
There is more harm than good that comes from issuing school grades: they brand schools; they pit schools against each other; they mar a school’s reputation in the community based on limited information; they put excessive pressure on students and teachers when it comes to FSA testing.
This happens on any given year, granted, but this year is particularly problematic because the FSA results will be unreliable, the effects of the pandemic have not been standard from school to school, and we expect many schools to not even reach the minimal threshold for the issuance of school grades, making these invalid. Those schools will be left out of the benefits of these provisions unless the State decides to issue the school grades regardless. The bill is not clear on this.
We hope you will consider ways to improve this section of the bill before the next committee stop to find more creative ways, perhaps by simply not publishing the grades and having an alternative calculation available for schools to come out of turnaround and to recognize schools’ success this year without issuing school grades at all.”