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Kevin Welner, director of the National Education Policy Center and professor of education at the University of Colorado in Boulder, writes here about the “testing pods” created by enthusiastic parents. Welner recently published a book of satirical essays called Potential Grizzlies.
Parents Rush to Form “Testing Pods”
Throughout the nation, anxious parents are worried that the pandemic will prevent their children from being sufficiently subjected this spring to the usual battery of state assessments. Some of these parents are taking the initiative and forming “testing pods” with neighbors and friends.
The pods typically include a testing proctor hired by the parents, who is tasked with ensuring that the students sit still, don’t interact with one another, and quietly focus on the days-long succession of test questions.
The nation’s children themselves have been fretfully yearning to experience testing again, after last spring’s cancellation of the incomparable experience. “These miserable children! I know the testing-pod option isn’t available to all parents,” said Mindy McLean. “But we can’t ignore our own kids’ needs. Last spring was so traumatic for Billy when they heartlessly pulled the testing away.”
This spring, the challenges remain enormous, and there’s almost no possibility that the test results will be useful for measurement or accountability purposes. But the U.S. Department of Education has nonetheless told states that blanket waivers to the ESSA testing requirement are out of the question.
The situation has left apprehensive parents like McLean in a state of limbo. “Do I trust that the state will come through, or do I take the initiative? Maybe I’m overreacting, but what if I trust the state and they end up cancelling again?”
The testing pod formed by McLean has already begun meeting,in order to begin the enriched-learning experience of weeks of test-prep. The children fill their days with practice tests, readpassages narrowly as test prompts, and dream of the time when they can once again relish the genuine testing event.
Reflecting on her family’s privileged position, McLean told us that she has no regrets. “Gandhi once said, ‘Live as if you were to die tomorrow.’ That’s what I tell Billy, and that’s why he can’t be deprived of these tests once again.”
In case you were misled, April Fools’ Day!