Commentary: Cancel standardized testing during pandemic

October 15, 2020 9:31 am
(Screenshot of video by Nick Geidner)

(Screenshot of video by Nick Geidner)

Three weeks ago, I watched Governor Bill Lee and Tennessee education commissioner Penny Schwinn stand in front of a room full of reporters and say that among third graders reading proficiency rates were down 50 percent and math proficiency rates were down 65 percent. The Governor implied that this staggering result was caused, in part, by the COVID-forced virtual learning occurring across the state and used this data to say that in-person education is far superior, even during a global pandemic.

As a social scientist, I immediately knew these claims were questionable at best.

First, I didn’t understand how the state could have collected data of this nature this early in the school year.

It turns out they didn’t. The education-focused news organization, Chalkbeat, reported later that week <> that the data Schwinn relied on for the presentation was projections, based on pre-COVID data.

Second, I knew that standardized tests would not be an effective tool for understanding student learning during a pandemic. I produced the below editorial video to explain why standardized tests make no sense during a pandemic and to urge our government not to make policy decisions based on any standardized test data collected this year.

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Nick Geidner
Nick Geidner

Nick Geidner lives in Knoxville and has two children. His seven-year-old is entering second grade in Knox County Schools. His younger son turns two in October. Nick is an associate professor of journalism in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media, where he runs the award-winning documentary production program, Land Grant Films.