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Tragedies of Testing

By Miranda Lin and Reshma Lukose

Source by Olivia Wong

Teachers convert to online-based platforms such as Delta Math and Google Classroom in order to conduct assessments and tests.

The start of the 2020-21 school year was quite different from any other. With new COVID-19 safety restrictions in place, New Hyde Park started the year following a hybrid and remote model of instruction. With more than half of the student population at home, teachers and students alike had to adjust to new methods of learning as well as address an issue that had been previously brushed off during the spring: testing.

During this period, all testing is happening on online platforms to eliminate the use of paper and the inevitable human contact that it would bring. Some online platforms include Google Classroom, Google Form submissions, Schoology, AP Classroom, and subject-specific programs, like Delta Math and In some classes, students may be allowed to answer the questions on paper and submit them to an assignment as a picture. Other times, the test will be done completely online, without the usage of pencil and paper.

Testing in this new environment with these new platforms has led to a multitude of new problems. For example, tests posted to Google Classroom do not always load on time, cutting off several minutes of students’ work times in already shortened periods. Pictures uploaded to Schoology do not upload in the correct order, or even in the correct orientation. Math tests conducted on Delta Math, which give different sets of questions to each student to increase test security, have a very strict set of rules for inputting answers, and messing up one number could jeopardize the entire exam.

“Now, students not only need to demonstrate that they understand the material but they also have to know how to enter the correct mathematical symbolic notation for their answers. For example, Delta Math will sometimes mark a student wrong on a question if they enter an answer that is correct but submitted in a form that Delta Math doesn't recognize. This must be corrected during the grading process. Additionally, students are not used to only having one chance to submit an answer and this has potentially caused some anxiety for students,” said math teacher Mr. Sime.

Source by Sydney Hargrove, @sydneysscrapbook

Mr. Sime uses the program Delta Math for online tests and allows students to submit their answers via Google Classroom.

Many students are feeling added stress and pressure with both technical difficulties and material being tested.

“With remote testing, you not only have to know the material, but you also have to be ready to deal with glitches in technology as well,” said junior Lauren Printz.

Technological glitches and shortened periods already lead to a testing environment that is twice as stressful as normal circumstances. Additionally, the craziness of the learning environment has resulted in many classes being conducted at a slower pace than usual, leaving a lot of material for students to cram. In some cases, teachers are not able to cover everything they would usually go over in class, leaving some details up to the students.

“I feel like some teachers are too unforgiving with testing through the hybrid/remote model and don’t understand the difficulties that students face in their busy home environments. They expect us to perfectly digest the information and grade harshly with minor mistakes. Tests also feel a lot more pressured and stressful now because they make up a greater portion of our grade when students cannot be in school,” said junior Laurence Lai.

Furthermore, although students have had to adapt to these new testing conditions, teachers have also had to make changes to teaching and testing methods.

“Many teachers have expressed that they are feeling incredibly overwhelmed and frustrated trying to maintain the litany of work-related responsibilities and expectations while navigating through numerous technological glitches throughout the day...”

“Overall, this year has been a huge adjustment for students and teachers alike. Most times, teachers feel like they are reinventing the wheel each day. Personally, my whole curriculum has had to be changed and reimagined in order to meet the individual needs of all my students. Many teachers have expressed that they are feeling incredibly overwhelmed and frustrated trying to maintain the litany of work-related responsibilities and expectations while navigating through numerous technological glitches throughout the day,” said Mr. Stencel.

The sole purpose of tests is to determine the understanding that a student has on a particular topic. Under these new testing conditions, there is a greater possibility that tests will not produce accurate results about the knowledge and understanding of students on certain topics. Due to this, the types of questions used on tests have changed drastically.

“I have tried to devise assignments that entail students sketching out scientific processes to show their understanding of a topic. To simply assign Castle Learning or any multiple choice type questions where students can Google each question and find the answer seems pointless. In the past, I have given tests with two parts: one section with multiple choice and one section with the constructed response. During COVID-19, I have tended more toward asking thought-provoking questions that demand students’ understanding of the material,” said science teacher Ms. Gelber.

Since many classes allow students to use notes during tests, avoiding fact-based questions enables teachers to determine whether a student fully understands a topic.

In addition, concerns regarding the honor system and cheating have been quite prevalent. Some teachers have turned to open-book testing and warned students about the ideas of blatant cheating, such as having a texting channel open with friends during a test. However, many teachers have seen a decrease in the number of effort students put into their work.

“Maintaining the integrity and validity of classroom assessments is a legitimate concern for teachers. I have found that many students have gotten lazier and more relaxed completing their own individual assignments. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually long for the days of physical copies of tests and essays, ” said Mr. Stencel.

Testing is a major concern during COVID-19 and both students and teachers have had to overcome many difficulties to work during this time. Although these problems have affected the members of NHP Memorial High School in a negative way, there have also been improvements in methods used for learning. Teachers have developed more ways to determine the understanding of the students and the new methods used for learning have actually enabled some students to learn more efficiently than before. The students and teachers at NHP continue to work on improving the quality of learning while combating the problems that arise with education during this time.

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