Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Erie Times E-Edition Article-Your Turn Scott Martin and Lindsey M. Williams Guest columnists Editor’s Note: This is an open letter dated Feb. 23 to President Joe Biden and Acting U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona…

Posted by M. C. on March 1, 2021

In times of trouble some rules and regulations are often set aside. This is often because these rules and regs are make work for state minions and/or worthless to begin with. There is an upside to crisis.

The whimpering and whining in this article indicates to me there is more in this case.

I suspect there is fear that PSSA testing will confirm a great failure on the part of Governor Wolf’s education mandates. Yes, no doubt testing will create additional “stress”.

Your Turn Scott Martin and Lindsey M. Williams Guest columnists Editor’s Note: This is an open letter dated Feb. 23 to President Joe Biden and Acting U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona from the Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee’s two chairs. Dear President Biden and Mr. Cardona,

Earlier this year, several leaders of the education community here in Pennsylvania wrote to you voicing their concerns regarding conducting education assessments in the thick of a pandemic and seeking a reprieve from federally mandated standardized testing for the school year. As the Majority and Minority Chairs of the Education Committee in the Senate of Pennsylvania, we would like to echo the sentiments of our colleagues and respectfully request the U.S. Department of Education offer states an assessments waiver for the 2020-2021 school year.

Over the past few months, we have spoken to many parents, students, and teachers who are concerned about the additional stress that this testing will place on our already overwhelmed students, who are navigating an ever-changing school landscape and vastly different learning models than in past years. What’s more, as COVID-19 mitigation strategies will require our teachers to administer tests multiple times to small groups of students, the larger class will be left without a teacher available for synchronous learning for the entire duration of the test administration. We’ve heard from many school districts that these COVID-19 mitigation strategies mean that they will need a significantly longer period of time than the six weeks currently allotted for testing, further limiting the precious amount of instruction time that teachers have with their students.

Many of our schools are beginning to return to more in-person learning. We should let our teachers use this opportunity to give students the supports that they need — to focus on teaching our kindergarteners how to be students in a real classroom, to teach our second graders how to handle money, to help our eighth graders navigate interpersonal relationships, and to give our twelfth graders as much of a senior year as we can.

Our students, teachers, and families have put in herculean efforts over the past 11 months to ensure that our students are safe, secure, healthy, and learning. We’ve emphasized the values of resiliency, community, and working together to solve the problems that we all face. What our students really need right now is time to feel like part of their community again — to have as much normalcy as we can give them.

We understand that there is a feeling of urgency by adults to find out as soon as possible how much learning our children have missed during this period, to quantify the learning gaps, to reduce the entire COVID-19 period to statistics. But there is a danger to rushing to this evaluation before we’ve made any effort to treat our children like human beings who need care and nurturing first. They are not data points in a funding formula. They are people who are going through a turbulent, confusing time and we need to give them some sense of stability before we thrust additional stress on them in the name of determining what schools ‘deserve’ more funding. We know where those inequities in our system are and how we can begin to invest in repairing them. We do not need additional assessments this year to figure that out.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Pennsylvania Sen. Scott Martin, R-13, and Sen. Lindsey M. Williams, D-38, are the majority and minority chairs, respectively, of the Pennsylvania Senate’s Education Committee. Martin represents part of Lancaster County. Williams serves part of Allegheny County.

Be seeing you

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