To protect students who are learning English from being forced into schools for the sole purpose of testing, and to enable parents to withdraw them from testing if they do not feel safe sending their children to school, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE), TESOL, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and several other organizations sent a letter to then-president-elect Joe Biden’s education transition team before his inauguration. The letter asks for the prioritizing of issuing guidance for state and local education agencies to make sure all students can maintain their health and well-being.
The groups are asking the education transition team to:
• Develop and provide clear guidance for state and local education agencies describing an opt-out protocol for English learner students who cannot take tests like the WIDA ACCESS safely;
• Make certain that those who opt out of in-person proficiency testing will not suffer any consequences;
• Use other appropriate and reliable information to measure an English learner student’s proficiency for placement;
• Not seek sanctions against any state or local education association for failing to administer English proficiency tests to students who opt out; and
• Allow state and local education agencies to postpone testing until the beginning of the 2021–22 school year, if necessary.
“No student should be forced to choose between their health and well-being or taking a test that will determine their proficiency in learning the English language, especially during an unprecedented pandemic,” said David Hinojosa, director of the Educational Opportunities Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “These tests can wait. Students of color, who comprise the vast majority of English learner students, have already been disadvantaged by remote learning and are under immense levels of stress. We cannot accurately gauge their progress right now by forcing them into schools that have been closed due to health risks.”
Beyond the imminent health risks imposed on English learner students and their families and teachers during in-person assessment, the pandemic’s compounding stressors also adversely impact these students’ learning, which may influence their assessment results. In addition, many schools have moved to remote learning as a result of the pandemic. Forcing students to attend schools that have been closed due to health risks solely for testing will likely only raise stress levels for students, impacting the validity and reliability of their assessment results.
“LULAC knows firsthand the significant obstacles Latino English-learner students are facing during this pandemic,” said Sindy Benavides, LULAC chief executive officer. “Throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico, COVID-19 is ravaging our communities while parents are struggling to make ends meet. We must do everything possible to protect students’ health and not expose them unnecessarily to COVID-19.”