Could This Be the End of Standardized Testing as We Know It?

Coronavirus could change our assessment landscape forever.

End of Standardized Testing

A month ago, we were prepping for AIR tests, AP tests, and many other high stakes standardized evaluations. Now, we are watching the news from home, changing our lesson plans, and wondering what will happen to state testing. Some states have already canceled it. Others are under immense pressure from school leaders to do so. The changes have teachers, students, parents, and lawmakers wondering: will this set a precedent for future years? Will emergency policies change the future of testing forever? Is this the end of standardized testing? Stakeholders are examining the following potential consequences of a year of no tests.

Colleges moving towards a “test-optional” status

Before coronavirus, some schools had already been considering a “test-optional” admission process, a major change from previous processes. The College Board has already postponed the May SAT. And there is no news yet about the June option, a major stepping stone for college applicants. Almost 50 schools have already become test-optional, meaning they consider factors other than the well-known SAT and ACT in the admissions process, such as portfolios of work, extracurricular involvement, and in-person meetings.

According to NPR, Oregon State, Case Western Reserve University, and others have already decided the class of 2021 will be test-optional. Rick Bischoff, in charge of Case Western enrollment, told NPR: “…understanding how much turmoil this is injecting into the process, it’s just so clearly, in our view, the right thing to do.” Coronavirus is just the tip of the iceberg, as lawsuits were already pending against using the SAT and ACT for college admission in California. Some feel it’s a biased test that actually doesn’t indicate a student’s ability to succeed at all. If colleges already on the fence about testing have to consider students without scores, it may set a precedent for next year.

Schools will rely on other forms of assessment

Most statewide tests for elementary and middle schools serve as a benchmark for school performance, not individual students. However, once students are in high school, state tests can count toward graduation. On March 20, the federal government decided to allow states the ability to cancel testing, even though some states had already gone ahead without them. Now states are deciding the best course of action, with many electing to cancel. If students and schools see success with alternate graduation requirements, testing may become just one pathway to graduation.

Alternate pathways to teacher and school evaluations

Test scores also impact teachers and schools whose performance was often based on the score. While many are excited that tests are being canceled, the government has to find alternative ways to assess schools. And schools themselves will have to find alternative ways to assess teachers. Ohio’s Governor Dewine just said, “If we can’t have testing this year, we will not have testing this year. The world will not come to an end.” But Ohio Public school teachers are evaluated on a model that is up to 50 percent test scores. Without these test scores, it’s unclear what will be used instead.

According to the New York Times, Texas is also a state with a high stakes test that can determine teacher evaluations. Texas Governor Abbott said, “With this health crisis, educators, students, parents and their families need to be dedicated to keeping their families safe. That’s stressful enough without having to worry about a standardized test to advance or graduate.” Educators have long been considering alternative options, such as sample testing, surveys, automatic data collection, and “multiple measures” which gather data such as workforce success, discipline records, and attendance, NPR reports.

Teachers and students have time and space to pursue “true learning”

Anti-testing advocates have long pushed for the demise of standardized testing so that teachers could teach what they know students are interested in, and students could have more advocacy in their own learning. Oftentimes, both parties feel that testing stands in the way of these goals. All of a sudden, there’s no school, but there are also fewer requirements pushing the agenda of students and teachers. Teachers are already getting creative with virtual learning requirements. Students are completing journal entries and going on nature walks. Will students have more time for pleasure reading? Will teachers have room for students to pursue interest-based projects, even virtually? Most importantly, if passion projects yield big results, could the future of testing change forever?

While many of the outcomes haven’t been studied yet, all stakeholders are eager to find out how a test-free spring may impact not only this year, but years to come.

What are your thoughts? Is this the end of standardized testing? Share in the comments below.

Could This Be the End of Standardized Testing as We Know It?

Posted by Alexandra Frost

Alex is a freelance journalist and high school publications teacher in Cincinnati, OH. She has three young sons under age four and has been teaching high school for ten years. She encourages her students to develop communication skills, independence, and a passion for writing in their authentic writers' voices.

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