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Covid and its Impact on School Testing

By: Nicole Frankel

Throughout this school year, all school districts have implemented various COVID-19 related protocols. For example, for the first three quarters of the school year, Half Hollow Hills followed a hybrid schedule for their secondary students. Two cohorts alternates remote learning and in-person school days in this hybrid timetable. This scheduling made testing difficult for both students and teachers. Teachers had to choose between administering tests only on in-person days or giving tests on remote days, thereby jeopardizing the test’s security. During the fourth quarter of the school year, however, the district made the executive decision to allow all students to return to school full-time. There was a full remote option for those who did not feel safe, but Half Hollow Hills completely eliminated the hybrid option. 

Now, as the school year draws to a close, students are beginning to wonder about final examinations, regents, and APs. Although students are in the building full time, they were at home for multiple learning days this year, prompting changes to the assessments that are given as well as what exams are being given. Final exams will not be given in classes that formerly had a final exam that counted as a fifth quarter and was given during a finals week. Instead, most classes are going to administer tests over the period of two class days, which can be counted as a regular test or as a quarterly exam. These tests are still titled “finals,” but they aren’t given during a normal final week and aren’t administered like a final or with the weight of a final. In addition, only a few select regents exams are being offered, and students are being asked to opt-in to taking them. With a “do no harm” policy in place, taking the regents this year comes with a perk. As in the past, the regents will serve as a fifth quarter, and if taking the regents improves a student’s average, the graders will keep the grade; however, if a student does poorly and the regents does not improve their average, the graders will simply place an exempt on their transcript. If a student is already in good academic standing for that course and chooses not to take the regents at all, an exemption is simply placed in that fifth quarter column. Basically, students enrolled in the few courses in which a regents is being offered have nothing to lose! New York State will only be administering exams in English, Algebra I, Earth Science, and Living Environment. Students will also be given the opportunity to take the Checkpoint exam for their language study. While the Regents are not mandatory for students in these four classes, they are highly encouraged by their teachers. Finally, APs are taking place this year. Nothing really changed for the APs, and the only challenge was figuring out how to effectively administer them with COVID-19 protocols still in place, especially for those fully remote students taking these secure exams at home. AP exams did offer a remote-only test, but it comes with the disadvantage of not being able to go back to previous questions. For school finals, remote students will take their tests on zoom, but their cameras, and in some cases microphones, must remain on for the duration. Regents exams are only being offered in person, so those fully remote students will have to come into school on the day of the exam or exams that they are opting to take. 

As with most things this past year, end-of-the-year testing has proven to have its own challenges and has required some adjustments. These testing situations may not be ideal, but they are a solution to an unprecedented problem and offer some sense of closure to this historic school year. 

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