Testing in the Age of COVID

Some say unfair during pandemic

Students and teachers wonder what the end of the school year will look like, as federal officials must soon decide whether to cancel standardized testing for the second year in a row.

This May, students in grades 3 through 8 are scheduled to take standardized state tests, which reflect students’ understanding of curriculum. High school students enrolled in Regents level classes are scheduled to take end-of-year Regents exams, which they must pass to gain credit toward graduation.

The state Department of Education last month asked the federal government for a waiver to cancel testing due to the challenges schools faced during the pandemic. The state teachers’ union said it supports the move, as well.

End-of-year testing is usually dreaded, but some students admit they would rather have the exams continue as planned. For one, if exams are canceled, students who put in the work this year would not have an opportunity to demonstrate their mastery of the material.

“It is a bit of a nuisance because we put in the work that we needed to do, and then just had nothing to do with it,” said Pen Rigney, a Beacon High School sophomore.

Beacon High School Principal Elisa Soto also expressed concern at the tests being canceled. “Testing is necessary to assess whether you have gained the skills, the knowledge, if you have mastered the content,” she said. “It helps us gauge how a student is doing and provide support for the student in the event that they have not mastered the content, or for that student who has and needs more enrichment.”

There is also a fear that students might not take their classes as seriously if they know exams are canceled. Canceling the exams would remove a lot of stress and anxiety, but this could negatively impact students if they decide their classes are no longer worth the effort.

“If the Regents exams were canceled and we found out about it soon, what worries me as a teacher is that you could get at least a portion of the population of the students who might decide, ‘Well I don’t need to worry about this anymore,’ ” said a district teacher who asked not to be named.

However, many feel as though having the tests would be unfair given the current circumstances.

“I feel like the exam wouldn’t be fair because it would assume that students across the state covered the same curriculum to the same depth and have the same understanding,” said another teacher. “And with students learning fully remotely, and the variability with learning and comprehension and understanding I feel that it wouldn’t be fair.”

Advanced Placement exams are also scheduled for this June. These classes are taken by high school students enrolled in college-level courses, and the exam must be passed to gain college credit. Last June, students took their AP exams online from home.

Students will not be surprised if the announcement canceling the June Regents and state tests comes soon. Vanessa Piciacchio, a Beacon High freshman, said that “it’s just we’ve been through so much and the world doesn’t seem to be going back to normal in the very near future so, no, I would not be surprised.”

One thought on “Testing in the Age of COVID

  1. The tests should be conducted, but for informational use only, not reflected in the final grade. In this way our schools will have a tool to assess students without the students paying a penalty for a year that presented multiple, undeniable obstacles to learning.