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Rethinking Standardized Tests

More than 118,000 educators, parents, and families called on the Department of Education to stop standardized testing during the pandemic. Our work to think "beyond the bubble" is just beginning.
Published: March 19, 2021 Last Updated: May 26, 2021

Over the months of March and April 2021, more than 118,000 students, parents, families, civil rights groups, activists, and other educators across the nation joined the National Education Association (NEA) in demanding that the U.S. Department of Education think beyond the bubble and stop high-stakes testing for this school year.

In response to this overwhelming demand, the NEA is standing up an internal task force that will

  • bring together educators and experts from across the United States to examine the implications of federal policy on assessments,
  • analyze the effects of high stakes assessments on students and schools,
  • study alternatives to high stakes standardized tests such as performance and skills-based assessments, and
  • create a framework for designing the future of assessments that puts equity first and students at the center.

We are looking forward to collaborating on this work, and will share our findings and recommendations with the Department of Education for actionable consideration.

The American people have spoken. Across the country, education stakeholders from students to principals to parents are joining us in calling upon the Department of Education to commit to rethinking our assessment policies, shift away from our national over-reliance on standardized tests, and embrace more authentic, well-rounded assessment systems created by and with educators.

We stand ready to partner with the Secretary and the Department of Education. The time to think beyond the bubble is now—let’s get to work.

Read and download our full report

Text of the Open Letter

To the U.S. Department of Education and State Governments:

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American students are still navigating the most difficult year of learning in modern history. Between losing loved ones to COVID-19, being forced out of classrooms, adapting to distance learning, and missing out on a year of regular social interactions—they have had their worlds turned upside down.

The last thing they need is to take a stressful, ineffective standardized test.

We, the undersigned, are educators, parents, families, caregivers, students, and community members. We demand all departments of education think beyond the bubble and stop high-stakes testing this year.

There will be nothing standard about how testing will be administered this year. Any data collected that forces comparisons between and among schools, districts, educators, and students across states will be invalid and could lead to the gutting of funding and resources for those that need it most.  

These tests are not capable of collecting the kind of information needed to target supports and resources. We need to rely on the expertise of educators who understand students’ physical, social, mental, and emotional needs at this time—not two-dimensional data from a multiple choice test.

We must ensure that our students who have been hardest hit during the pandemic—our Black, brown, rural, indigenous students, as well as those with special needs—receive the support they need. The educators and communities who know them best must have the flexibility to tailor assessments that can determine where students are and help design an educational experience that fully supports their academic, social, and emotional needs.

Standardized high-stakes testing should not come at the expense of precious learning time that students could be spending with their educators.  

We believe in an educational system that focuses on and measures what our students truly need—skills like creativity, leadership, critical thinking, and collaboration.  

A better future for education is possible, and the first step is to start thinking beyond the bubble and stop high stakes testing this year.

National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.