Biden’s pick for Education secretary will be tested on assessments

With help from Andrew Atterbury

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Weekly Education: Coronavirus special edition. Each week, we will explore how the pandemic is reshaping and upending education as we know it across the country, from pre-K through grad school. We will explore the debates of the day, new challenges and talk to movers and shakers about whether changes ushered in now are here to stay.

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TESTING TIME — A major test awaits President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for Education secretary. The question is whether to waive federal standardized testing requirements this spring for K-12 schools for a second year or to carry on, despite the pandemic. There’s no easy answer.

A host of education and civil rights groups say statewide testing will be important to gauge how much students have fallen behind during the pandemic, particularly for the most vulnerable kids. Even before the coronavirus, “The Nation’s Report Card” revealed children across the country have fallen behind in reading, with the largest drops among lower-performing students.

Statewide testing will “give us a snapshot, if an incomplete snapshot, of what happened this year. How close did students get to the standards?” said Brennan McMahon Parton, director of policy and advocacy for the Data Quality Campaign.

Teachers unions and standardized test opponents, however, say this isn’t the time. “Battle lines are being drawn,” said Bob Schaeffer of FairTest, a group that opposes what it calls the misuse of standardized tests. “The vast majority of parents and teachers think it’s ridiculous to believe that you can get meaningful results from a standardized test in the middle of a pandemic.”

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THE STAKES — The Every Student Succeeds Act, the main federal law governing K-12 education, requires states to assess students in math, as well as reading, each year from third grade through eighth grade and once in high school. Students also must be tested in science three times between third grade and 12th grade. The results are a key part of state systems for measuring the progress of schools.

ESSA requires states to use the results to help identify low-performing schools that should receive additional support and to include the results on annual state and local

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ESPN college football analyst Desmond Howard announces he’s tested positive for coronavirus

ESPN college football analyst Desmond Howard announced Thursday that he has tested positive for COVID-19.

“I’m under strict quarantine right now, because yesterday I tested positive for COVID,” Howard said in a video posted to Twitter.

Howard detailed that he’s experiencing a cough and muscle soreness but has not had a fever.

“You have to take this very seriously, because it’s a very tricky virus — extremely unpredictable and tricky virus,” Howard said. “So you have to continue to do all the things that you can to maintain your health even if you start to feel good.”

Howard tweeted that he will be doing College GameDay from home this week and not at Penn State, where the 18th-ranked Nittany Lions will host No. 3 Ohio State.

This is not the first time College GameDay has had an analyst do the show remotely this season because of coronavirus protocols. In September, Kirk Herbstreit came in contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. Although Herbstreit tested negative, he was not on the road with the show when Miami hosted Florida State, but he still appeared on College GameDay and was a part of the game broadcast.

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Nick Saban Is Being Tested for the Virus. The Runaway Train of College Football Keeps Rolling.

With their sprawling counts of players, coaches and support personnel, the movement of college teams around the country for games every week doesn’t exactly help slow down the virus. But to the enablers, the excuse makers, those who want to normalize sickness, that does not mean much.

Move on, they say. Move on.

Even if it means holding games in front of frothing crowds. After his team lost to Texas A&M last weekend, Florida Coach Dan Mullen said the boisterous crush at College Station had been a significant factor in the defeat. So he promptly called for 90,000 Florida fans to show up for the Gators’ next game at home in Gainesville, against Louisiana State.

Distancing? Crowd control? The virus? Why bother?

Then came karma. Florida reported this week that at least 19 of its players had tested positive. The Gators’ battle this weekend against L.S.U., one of the most anticipated matchups of the erratic season, has been postponed.

Speaking of L.S.U., most of its players have already had the virus at some point this season, according to Coach Ed Orgeron.

So it goes. Rutgers. Clemson. North Carolina. Virginia Tech. Kansas State. All of these teams, each with supposedly tight protocols, have experienced outbreaks. Mississippi is grappling with the virus. Vanderbilt cannot play this weekend because so many of its players are infected.

No worries. Move on.

After first announcing the suspension of football until after Jan. 1, the Big Ten and the Pac-12 reversed course and bowed to the need to chase the tens of millions in guaranteed television revenue by holding a season. By early November, both conferences will be playing again.

Both claim to have a magic formula: better testing and increased safety measures.

If this magic formula does not work as planned, if more coaches and players fall ill, expect a hail of the now typical excuses from college football enablers.

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