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NEPC Talks Education: Discussing Standardized Testing Policy During a Pandemic

BOULDER, CO (April 15, 2021) – In this month’s episode of the NEPC Talks Education podcast, NEPC Researcher Christopher Saldaña interviews Lorrie Shepard, whose research focuses on psychometrics and the use and misuse of tests in educational settings. Dr. Shepard is the University Distinguished Professor in the School of Education at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Saldaña and Shepard discuss the Biden administration’s decision to require standardized testing this year. Shepard believes that while the administration’s decision is likely motivated by a desire to collect information about student outcomes in an effort to promote educational equity, it will likely result in an undue and unnecessary burden on under-resourced schools already struggling to respond to the pandemic.

In particular, Shepard is concerned that testing will require a reallocation of school resources such as computers, and leave students who are dependent on school computers for remote learning without technology for the weeks that in-school testing is conducted. Moreover, because student participation in this year’s test is likely to be much lower than normal, Shepard believes that what data is collected will need to be carefully analyzed and thoughtfully presented to the public to avoid misinterpretation and misinformation about alleged “learning loss.”

In response to the administration’s decision, Shepard encourages teachers to work with students to address testing anxiety rather than concerning themselves with trying to cover more material in class. In the years to come, Shepard hopes that federal and state policymakers will take the lessons learned during the pandemic and over the last 40 years of accountability policy to consider how federal testing policy can provide useful and valid information about district, school and student academic outcomes, without distorting teaching and learning or disproportionately burdening under-resourced schools.

A new NEPC Talks Education podcast episode, hosted by Christopher Saldaña, will be released each month from September through May. 

Don’t worry if you miss a month. All episodes are archived on the NEPC website and can be found here.

NEPC podcast episodes are also available on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher, under the title NEPC Talks Education. Subscribe and follow!

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: