Covid-19 has significantly impacted learning around the world. Traditional learning has been replaced or modified with video conferences, learning platforms, and learning packets. The days of teachers carrying out dynamic group activities or using multiple learning strategies during class instruction have become more complex. Learning has changed and many students have struggled to maintain growth in the way they did with in-class learning, but high-stakes testing remains ever-present. What will this mean for schools going forward? In brief, high-stakes testing in a remote teaching world requires some unique considerations.
One may ask: Should schools be held accountable for the same standards they were teaching prior to remote teaching? Many states may have plans to administer standardized tests in the spring to assess student growth and achievement. Let’s explore if these tests should be administered. If so, what is the benefit?
Identifying learning gaps is one benefit and reason for continuing high-stakes testing. Students may or may not give an accurate representation of how they are doing via remote learning. When they take standardized tests, they are demonstrating competency in those assessed areas. After viewing the end-of-year summative tests, teachers are able to see where students are struggling. At that time, teachers can modify instruction to correct learning gaps. Without this type of objective data, identifying learning gaps caused by the COVID-19 remote learning may go unnoticed for much longer.
Many educators are aware that there will likely be a COVID slide. The summer slide has made the traditional back-to-school transition difficult each year, but teachers were prepared for the summer regression. Now there is a much bigger regression to plan for. With proper identification of how big the COVID slide is, steps can be taken to correct reading and math deficits. Due to data available from previous years’ high-stakes testing, educators know how students should score on these standardized tests. Comparing scores after the COVID slide to previous years will see if students are making typical learning gains in reading and mathematics. Other comparisons can be made for content areas that are assessed in addition to these core areas.
Educators are known for rising to the occasion, so will they truly need this data to identify gaps? Will the testing process stress them more and distract them from focusing on what’s important – helping students learn what is needed? This is debatable. If the year-end tests are used for school accountability, schools could fail to meet proficiency expectations. Many people would argue that such identifications would undermine all that educators have done to help students and parents during this time?
Perhaps, if high-stakes testing must go on, there can be some modifications. This could result in changing the testing format. Maybe students could be assessed in less content areas or using the previous year’s standards. There are a lot of considerations to be made as the spring inches closer.
Regardless of all the uncertainties, the COVID impact is ongoing. Teachers and schools are under immense stress. With trying to balance remote teaching, hybrid learning models, and how they typically teach, it is safe to say that preparation must go on. There are learning gaps to address and the need to remediate missed learning. Since no one has encountered this situation before, it is impossible to know how this can/should be handled.