How Parents Feel About Assessments in a Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the health and safety of students and educators remains at the forefront of every parent and family’s mind this school year. It’s hard to focus on anything else, but when it comes to education, these are not the only concerns.

The effects of the pandemic on our students are much further reaching than simply the way in which they are learning this school year. The pandemic has further illuminated and exacerbated education inequities across the nation.

Since the pandemic began, National PTA has been advocating for dedicated funding for public schools to address COVID-19 related needs, including resources to close the connectivity gap so all students can learn online, support for students with disabilities and low-income families, and access to school meal benefits for students.

Now that the new school year is underway, safety must still be the primary concern for students, educators and other school personnel, but we must also consider and address the potential effects of disrupted in-person and remote learning on our students’ academic progress.

National PTA recently partnered with Edge Research to conduct focus groups with parents across the country to hear their perspectives on their children’s educational experience during the pandemic. We heard loud and clear that parents want and need to know where their children’s starting point is this school year, acknowledging that students had different experiences with remote schooling last spring.

One way to do this is to use a diagnostic or benchmark tests at the beginning of the school year. A benchmark assessment can help teachers tailor instruction and help identify the supports students need from their school, teachers and family. The focus groups revealed that parents across the country are largely in support of diagnostic tests at the beginning of the school year to measure their children’s starting point.

Parents also understand the purpose of giving students an end-of-year test to show their progress and to know whether their child met grade-level expectations for the school year. They also feel that the end-of-year test does not have to be comparable to the test given in the fall. It is more about seeing the progress their child made and having valuable information they can use to better support their learning at home.

It is important than ever for parents and educators to have meaningful data on student learning. There are multiple measures—including benchmark tests, classroom-based tests, standardized assessments, report card grades and teacher observations—that, when combined, help give a clearer picture of where children are academically.

While the current situation is not one any of us predicted or desires to be in, we should take this opportunity to advocate for assessments that provide meaningful information to parents to help support their children’s learning at home, as well as help educators address learning gaps early on and tailor their instruction to students.

This means assessments must be informative and low stake and results must be provided in a timely manner and in ways that are easy to understand for parents.

We all know that this school year is unlike any other, however, it is still imperative that parents and families have access to meaningful data, information and transparency on their children’s academic progress.

What can you do to help understand where your child’s starting point is this year?  Here are some questions you can ask your child’s teacher and/or principal:

  • What diagnostic or benchmark test(s) are given to my child?
  • When and how will the results be provided to me?
  • How can I use these results to support my child’s learning?
  • How will you use these results to support my child’s learning?

All of us must work together to make sure we have the best, most accurate information to support our children’s learning and help them reach their full potential.


Author: Leslie Boggs, National PTA President.

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National PTA President Addresses Membership Amongst Pandemic

The coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) has reached a critical point. Yesterday we learned that we have lost our first known PTA leader to the virus. Our utmost priority during this crisis is the health and safety of all of our members and all students, educators, staff and families. We are also committed to supporting and making sure all PTAs, children, families, schools and communities have what they need during this challenging time.

COVID-19 has and will continue to have significant impacts and implications on K-12 education and student populations. Please know that National PTA is engaging regularly with congressional staff and fellow education partners on critical issues related to COVID-19 such as state testing requirements, access and support for online learning and school meals. We’re also advocating for Congress to take swift, bipartisan action to provide fiscal and policy relief to state and local education agencies.

Today, we issued a statement calling for the federal government to provide clear and robust guidance for families and schools struggling amid the pandemic. We’ve also compiled resources and will continue to add more for our community to use to help navigate the crisis. We are working every day to provide information to support families and students and advocating on behalf of our nation’s youth.

As you and your PTA have questions regarding COVID-19, we urge you to reach out to your state and local health and education departments. Additionally, you can support efforts to assist  the most vulnerable children and families by engaging with local school districts and departments of health to determine high-need areas and collaborate with community groups—such as food pantries and other non-profits—to provide essential services and support.

Please continue to follow National PTA on social media, read our newsletters and check out resources and information on COVID-19 at www.PTA.org/COVID-19.

Thank you for everything you are doing to support families, students and schools in your states and communities during this time. We remain committed to advocating for and helping you and our nation’s families, schools and communities navigate the challenges that have arisen in this time of crisis.

Sincerely,
Leslie Boggs