The coronavirus pandemic has dealt another blow to education. The U.S. Department of Education has canceled next year's National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a national test in reading and math given every two years. In making the announcement, the department cited the effect of school shutdowns across the country in limiting the number of students that could even take the test.
The cancellation of the NAEP eliminates one way to measure the impact of the pandemic school closures across various states. "It's one thing to cancel state assessment tests, but it's another thing to say we're not going to do a no-stakes national assessment," says Rick Hess, education policy expert with the American Enterprise Institute. "We need (this test) to figure out how this is actually affecting kids, and what is happening across the nation as far as learning or lack of learning."
"What this means is we are simply not going to know how kids have been impacted, and how reading and math outcomes have been impacted, by COVID, by school closures, by any of this," Hess continues. "Basically, what we are going to be doing is trying to fly a plane with no information and no instruments."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott canceled the state STAAR exams last year due to the pandemic, but has yet to announce whether this year's exams will go on as scheduled. Recently, a bipartisan group of 68 Texas House members sent a letter to the governor and Texas Education Agency calling for cancellation of STAAR tests this year.
Even if the tests are carried out in the current environment, they give an incomplete picture of student achievement, due to the number of students who are unaccounted for or not participating. "From some of these tests, we know kids are learning somewhat, but that only applies to half the kids," says Hess. "We have no idea how the other half of the kids are doing, because we haven't been able to measure them at all."