Progressive Shifts in Standardized Testing and Education Due to Covid-19

By Matthew McKoy ’22

Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, many schools as well as students across the nation, have gradually begun to adapt to the major shifts in the educational system that are currently taking place. After a state hearing held on 20 March, the United States Department of Education concluded that students would not be able to perform to their full potential under these harsh conditions. Henceforth, Secretary of the United States Department of Education, Besty Devois, was able to amend the federal law, which instituted that all standardized testing be cancelled for the remainder of the school semester. Immediately, the educational system within the United States experienced a domino effect. Not only would this have an effect upon the systems within the primary levels as well as high school, but this new law would lead many collegiate universities to label themselves as test-optional in their selection of the Class of 2021, in the Fall. As this law gained the popularity of many students worldwide, it has gradually given the birth to a new movement that will possibly not only institute a provisional change in the system of standardized testing in this year alone, but it can possibly lead to a permanent change to this system in the years to come.

As many collegiate institutions such as the University of California have gone test-optional, many other universities have decided to extend their test optional period for its applicants. Yes, you have read this statement correctly. Although many schools have chosen to go test-optional for the Fall of 2021, this period may be extended over the course of three years, and possibly for any other collegiate selection process in history. An example can be taken from competitive schools like Tufts University, who has extended their test optional period for three years. As this has gained conflicting views from high school students across the nation, it has helped to give rise to a new campaign highlighted by the slogan “#TestOptionalNow.”

“Student Voice” is a student-run non-profit organization that has advocated that other colleges as well as universities adhere to test-optional policies, due to many incidents that indicate the misuse of standardized testing.  Jerome White, a spokesman for the College Board says: “The health and safety of students is our first priority and we are collaborating with higher education institutions to provide flexibility to students and to support admissions under these unprecedented circumstances.” As this movement has gained the popularity of many students nationwide, there are many conflicting views on collegiate universities extending their test optional period. Many parents, along with students, believe that this test optional period has deprived them of a fair opportunity in regards to their future education, as well as their future careers. However, as the “Student Voice” continues to gain more popularity around the nation, the 51 schools that have signed off on the test-optional policy do not meet the required percentage for this policy to be made a part of the federal law. Only time will tell the changes that will take place in standardized testing.            

Although the test-optional policy had a significant impact on the system of standardized testing worldwide, another factor that contributes to this recurrent progressive shift is the cancellation of final exams. The months of May and June serve as a massive study period for many students across the world. With that being said, due to the ongoing circumstances, as well as the integration of distance learning in education, many schools have decided to cancel final examinations. As this may seem like an advantage for students, these schools have decided to extend the school year for about one week. Along with the extended school year, students are still required to complete one final assignment given by the teacher, in order to receive credit for a final grade. As courses are now attributed as pass-fail, students are still required to work hard up until the completion of the school year. These final assignments still possess the weight of a final grade, and are still considered to be a decisive factor as to whether students are able to pass the semester. 

Many teachers, parents, and students are adjusting to the new reality of distance learning. As there still lies a high probability of change, distance-learning has slowly become the new norm for our system of education. As a variety of school systems continue to adapt to these changes, we must remain patient and wait for the best. Do you agree with these changes? What possible outcomes do you see that can possibly influence the future of education in the decades to come?