How has COVID-19 Altered the System of Standardized Testing?

Matthew McKoy ’22

As the United States continues to fight the current outbreak of the coronavirus, our nation has experienced many losses throughout our system of education. Following the outbreak of this nation-wide pandemic, many schools, collegiate institutions, and universities, have been forced to shut down in order to ensure the safety of both the administration, along with the safety of students.

Since this was a reasonable decision made by the United States government under the direct orders of the CDC, this global pandemic has forced major shifts upon the educational system established throughout many states located within the United States. As many schools have proceeded to provide education to their students with the use of “distance learning”, this has raised many concerns in regards to the standardized testing sanctioned by the state.

As these tests are seen as a requirement in order for students to be promoted to the next grade level, both parents teachers, and students who are adjusting to this new system of learning have found many faults within this system of “distance learning.” There is a fear that it may not be a substantial way to complete the desired curriculum for the second semester of the school year.

While this topic has gradually gained popularity among many representatives of the educational department on a local level, this conflict has been brought to the attention of the United States Department of Education. As teachers, students, and parents have signed many petitions for major standardized tests such as the Regents Examinations, the SAT, and also the ACT, to be altered or even cancelled for the year, Secretary Betsy DeVos, has now said that the department will renounce standardized tests requirements for all states that have been affected by the coronavirus. Although this has provided many students with a fair opportunity to complete the end of year school curriculum, the coronavirus still poses an active threat to the education of many students across the nations.

After a state hearing that was held on March 20, 2020, Secretary of the United States Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, came to the conclusion that it would be best to make amends to the educational policies of the United States. These educational policies would be instituted in grades K-12 across the nation, and would be seen as a response to the global pandemic.

DeVos, along with the fellow advocates made the decision to adjure all standardized testing in states that continue to be affected by the coronavirus. DeVos herself said: “Students are simply too unlikely to be able to perform their best in this environment.” As this has gained many conflicting views, states under the authority of the U.S Department of Education were forced to adhere to these policies.

Although the federal law mandates that state students in grades three through eight, and also high school be tested based upon core subjects, this law has been repealed. In response, many schools have instituted computer-based testing. However, this still poses a force of obstruction for many students nationwide.

Additionally, as the coronavirus continues to affect students from all grade levels, the education department has instituted new policies, which have supported many students on a national level. The United States Department of Education has made the decision to automatically set the interest rates of people with federal student loans to 0% for the next 60 days.

Those who have borrowed loans are given the opportunity to expel their payments for the duration of two months without accumulating any form of interest. With the initiation of this act, students who have borrowed federal loans are now provided with ‘financial insurance” during the nation’s state of emergency. Although this has posed a benefit to many students nationwide, it has brought a challenge to a variety of servicers across the board. 

These conflicts serve to be the basis of the effects from this global pandemic. The coronavirus has had both an educational and psychological effect on many upperclassmen, specifically those who are seniors, across the United States. With the cancellation of these standardized tests, many students and parents question whether or not the college selection will present itself with any forms of bias.

Standardized tests such as the SAT, and the ACT are academic requirements for students across the nation. The cancellation of these exams have stirred turmoil in the minds and hearts of many students. Students anxiously wait, as they approach National Decision Day on May 1st. Many people strongly believe that this will have a negligible impact on the choices made by colleges, while others believe that this will affect their future collegiate education significantly, considering the fact that those who choose not to submit their scores will be held at a disadvantage, compared to those who have chosen to submit their scores.

Many universities have already placed a suspension on standardized test requirements, and have labeled themselves as “test-optional”. Major collegiate institutions such as the University of California, the University of Oregon, and Tufts University have expressed their sympathy for high school students across the nation. Chris Gruber, director of admissions and financial aid at Davidson College, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented obstacles and disruptions for everyone, including young people pursuing their academic and life aspirations.” These conflicts have affected many seniors psychologically as their future careers and goals rest upon the fate of this pandemic. Seniors face the stress of possibly ending their school semester through “distance-learning” with the possibility of never actually getting the chance to receive their diplomas in person. As the coronavirus continues to alter our way of life, it has truly taken a toll upon the education within the United States.

Although many may agree with the cancellation of standardized testing, others may not be pleased with this. As standardized testing applies to all high school students, it does not apply to high school students who are in an accelerated class, or a course labeled under advanced placement. Advanced Placement courses are offered to many high school students across the nation. Through their participation in this course, high school students are given the opportunity to receive college credit based upon their scores on a Advanced Placement Exams.

Students who receive a 3 or higher may be granted college credit for the subject in which they took that year. Recent news from the College Board indicates that this examination is still taking place. However, due to the pandemic, the overall structure of the exams has been altered. The exams have now been reduced to a 45 minute online examination.

The format of the exam has not been released by the College Board, but teachers are expected to receive more details of these examinations on April 3. As many students were concerned that the money they paid in order to participate in the course would be wasted, they will still be given the eligibility to receive college credit that they desire in the future. The College Board has been generous and has taken it upon themselves to conduct a nationwide study on the digital platform Airing at 6 p.m EST, the college board provides free reviews for various students across the nation in order to ensure their preparation for their exams on May 14, along with optional examination days. Many students across the nation continue to remain studious, as this can be a deciding factor for many, in regards to their future aspirations. 

Overall, we can see how this pandemic has not only taken a toll upon those who are sick, but it has also affected the lives of many students across the nation. As the nation has extended social distancing until April 30th, policies will still remain in place. However, the effects upon these students will be continuous. Parents and teachers are advised to console their students as this may be a hard experience for some. As National Decision Day approaches, many seniors remain anxious at home, only praying for the best. The state continues to provide many resources for parents, teachers, and students to make this new educational experience a comfortable transition. Although we do not know exactly when this pandemic will end, the United States continues to prioritize the lives of many students across the nation.