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As the parent of two students who have been in remote learning since March 2019, I am deeply concerned about whether we are going to measure student learning as we return to in-person classes. I need to know how my kids are doing. Where are they succeeding? Where do they need additional support? It is not enough to know that COVID-19 has created challenges for my kids, and all kids in general. I need to know specifically where it has caused issues, where it has left my students today.

It is no secret that remote learning has had its hiccups and uncertainties. It’s been a challenge for everyone psychologically, emotionally, socially and financially. It just isn’t the same as learning in a classroom with a teacher. The remote learning platform has not served my kids nor the children of many parents I have talked with, including friends and family. While many, including myself, have gained an even greater appreciation for the work of our teachers and educators, it is still frustrating that schools are not showing a commitment to serve the academic needs of kids.

In conversations with family, friends and other parents, many issues are the same. Families I have spoken with do not get transparency from the district or a clear and precise plan.

As a parent fellow at Transform Education Now, I have been talking with families across the state to hear about their experiences with remote learning. One thing that comes up again and again in those conversations is that parents want to know if and how their children have fallen behind on their academic goals during COVID-related school closures. They know it has been hard, but what they don’t know is how those difficulties have impacted their kids’ overall academic progress. They’re not experts, so they need the experts to help them understand and to create an educational plan with full transparency that will serve the student body with a focus on bridging the gaps.

These parents across Colorado want to know how their students are doing not because they want to punish the school or their kids’ teachers, but so they can make sure they are advocating for what their kids need moving forward. Parents want to know because we love our children, and we want to ensure that they have a fair chance to achieve the skills necessary to be successful in the opportunities that will be afforded to them in life.

Think of it this way: When you have an issue with your car — some noise that doesn’t sound right or the check engine light goes off — you know something is wrong, but you’re not an expert, so you take your car into the mechanic to find out specifically what the issue is so you can get it fixed.

The same applies to our kids. We know something is off, but we’re not the educational experts, so we need help to understand what’s wrong so we can help ensure it gets fixed.

Except we’re not talking about cars. We’re talking about our children. And unlike a car, we don’t just give up eventually and replace it.

We know where we need our kids to get to, but we don’t know where they are along that journey. I, along with parents across Colorado, are worried that schools won’t tell us where our kids went off route. How can we ask for directions if we don’t even know where we are?

Counterpoint: Peter Hilts

When critical supplies run low, we prudently conserve what’s precious and forgo what’s less essential. This year, that wisdom applies to learning like never before. The events of 2020 have proven beyond dispute that in-person learning is the most precious resource we can offer our students. Because of closures and disruptive quarantines, every student has lost out on in-person learning. Now, we are resisting a mandate to spend even more in-person time on low-value assessments that don’t justify the trade-off of losing even more learning.

We administer Colorado Measures of Academic Success every year to track individual and group progress and to improve instruction. Every educator I know finds value in using the data to compare student performance over time and across student groups. Last spring, we canceled those assessments because gathering to administer them would incur medical risk.

This year, superintendents, teachers, legislators, and dozens of other agencies and leaders agree that administering the 2021 CMAS is not worth the cost. With the exception of PSAT and SAT exams for college admissions purposes, teacher-led and local assessments are a better option compared with a universal assessment that was never designed to measure performance during the wildly chaotic conditions that have dominated these two school years.

Standardized tests measure multiyear progress toward academic mastery. Tests in 2021 will reflect the disruptions of 2020 and the continued volatility of 2021. The tests will tell us something, but they will not be comparable to the 2019 or 2023 tests in any degree. Even 2022 test results are unlikely to return to pre-COVID-19 levels because of the cumulative effect of learning losses.

Further, we know that patterns of attendance and engagement vary tremendously across communities and student populations. We know that students who are at risk for any reason have been more vulnerable to pandemic impacts and students with more assets have been more resilient. We don’t need exams to prove that truth.

Proponents say testing will give us a measure of how much impact the pandemic has had. They won’t. There is no way to control for what statisticians call confounding variables — the “other” things that you didn’t intend to measure but that interfere with your conclusions.

What we might be measuring is parent employment patterns that support or inhibit at-home help. We might end up measuring access to devices and broadband — better for thriving families closer to networks, and worse for surviving families farther from reliable service. Again, we don’t need hours of sit-down tests to tell us that.

Maybe we would measure which schools were more prepared with technology and agility to support transitions to e-learning.

All of that might be good information, but none of that information is worth sacrificing the invaluable asset of in-person learning.

The other major factor is participation. Many families chose not to attend in-person this year. We have no reason to think that they will attend in-person for assessments. Of those who do attend, we have heard a resounding message from students, parents, and teachers: CMAS isn’t worth it this year. We agree, and we predict that if we are mandated to administer the tests, students and parents will “vote with their seats” and most tests will capture far less than 50% participation.

Even in normal years, CMAS is disruptive to learning at the end of the year. Typically, we adjust and absorb that impact. In 2021, it is asking too much for students and teachers to absorb one more disruption. This year we should do the next right thing and prioritize learning over testing.

John Johnson is a parent fellow at Transform Education Now, a Colorado organization that seeks to transform education systems. Peter Hilts has invested 30 years in public education and serves as the chief education officer for School District 49 in Falcon.

This content was originally published here.