Before he became a member of Congress, Jamaal Bowman was principal of a middle school in the Bronx. He knows what kids need: more support, not more testing. He is now vice chair of the House Education Committee. In New York, before entering Congress, he was an active member of the opt-out of testing movement. He is now spearheading an effort to roll back the Biden administration’s refusal to grant waivers to states from the mandated federal testing.

He wrote a letter to Secretary Miguel Cardona and gathered signatures from other members of Congress. What is remarkable is how few members signed his letter.

Bowman said that requiring testing this year would add stress to kids who are already traumatized and divert school administrators’ resources and attention away from reopening safely. 

“We absolutely should not be doing this now in the middle of a pandemic,” he said in an interview, adding that it would be “too much of a heavy lift” for states.

“We already know where the gaps are because we’ve been testing for 20 years,” Bowman said, adding that the federal government should engage with teachers and principals to determine where resources need to be targeted as a result of the pandemic.

The letter to Cardona, shared with POLITICO, was also signed by Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.) as well as Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)...

The new testing guidance was unveiled by the Education Department on Feb. 22, before Cardona was confirmed by the Senate. The guidance was signed by Ian Rosenblum, former executive director of The Education Trust-New York, who is the acting assistant Education secretary for elementary and secondary education. 

“Mr. Rosenblum, with all due respect, has never been a teacher or school administrator in his life, and it’s important that our parents and educators know that these decisions are being made by people who do not have the experience to make those decisions,” Bowman said. “That’s unacceptable in and of itself.”

The resumption of testing is supported by the chairs of the House and Senate education committees, Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia and Senator Patty Murray of Washington State. They imagine that the standardized tests will somehow promote equity and measure “learning loss.” It will do neither.

“We must do everything in our power to make up for lost learning time and address achievement gaps that have been exacerbated by the pandemic — and that starts by understanding the scope of the problem,” Scott and Murray said in a joint statement last month.

They should listen to Jamaal Bowman, who knows what he is talking about.

And they should read this article, which explains why standardized testing does not close achievement gaps and does not promote equity and will not measure “learning loss.”

Please call or write your members of Congress to register your views about the resumption of standardized testing as we are still in the pandemic, following a year of disrupted schooling, in which educational opportunity was unevenly available. If you want to know how your kids are doing, ask their teachers.