Dayton Public Schools superintendent questions standardized testing plans amid COVID-19 pandemic

DAYTON — Dayton Public Schools superintendent Elizabeth Lolli had sharp criticism for plans in place, she said, to hold statewide standardized testing this spring despite interruptions to learning caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lolli spoke virtually with News Center 7 on the day Dayton Public Schools announced the return to class on Jan. 4, following the winter holidays, will be a return to online-only classes through at least Feb. 19. DPS will push back in-person classes further, it said, if COVID-19 numbers in the Miami Valley do not improve.

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“We already know that our students have a gap in their learning,” Lolli said, noting the district has only been even at a hybrid remote/in-person learning level for a total of two weeks, in October, since the pandemic started in March.

That’s why she questions holding standardized testing.

“Using the standardized testing as we typically have done is inappropriate and ineffective,” Lolli said.

“The only thing it does is it rates poverty,” she added. “We know that the lowest scoring schools across this country are schools that have high numbers of children who live in poverty. That’s the only thing we’re doing (by testing) is identifying those locations once again.”

She continued, “For the state of Ohio not to apply for waiver from the federal requirements for the testing and for the federal gov not to provide some kind of relief for the nation’s schools, who have done everything possible and everything we can, and switched on a dime to remote learning, it just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

In a letter to Congressional leaders in November, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, with the Trump administration, recommended waiving tests for the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) but added, “I strongly believe that states should implement their own assessments on schedule in spring 2021.”

Lolli alluded to the incoming Biden administration, mentioning she is “hoping that the new administration has an opportunity to get a new education secretary in,” that will change positions on standardized testing during the pandemic. She said she worries standardize testing will only tell school districts what they already know, she said – that many students have fallen behind during the extended time away from in-person learning.

WHIO reached out to the Ohio Department of Education looking to learn more about the state’s plans to administer testing in 2021, and will update this story when we hear back.