Standardized testing has been canceled in many states across the nation, including South Carolina, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving many teachers and students with a strong feeling of relief.
On March 23, South Carolina Superintendent of Education, Molly Spearman, announced that the US Department of Education approved the state’s assessment suspension waiver. This means that the state will not administer SC READY, PASS, EOC exams, and Pre-K assessments.
Spearman stated that “the suspension of South Carolina’s student assessments will allow educators to focus on meeting the needs of students and relieve undue anxiety faced by parents and students.”
By canceling testing, teachers will be able to focus on teaching during this difficult and confusing time of distance learning rather than stressing about whether or not their students will be able to pass these major tests if and when they return in May.
Mrs. Mary Kay Herrera, a third-grade teacher at Round Top Elementary, is happy that standardized testing has been canceled and feels as though it is the right decision. She said, “Cancelling standardized testing due to COVID-19 is the right decision for all involved. If schools reopen in May, students should not be expected to take high-stakes tests that determine whether they will move on to fourth grade or not. Our students and families need to focus on staying healthy and learning. As a teacher, we need to focus on remote learning and helping our students and families through this unprecedented time.”
Since testing has been canceled, many teachers are able to look into new ways of teaching their students material since they have to adapt to distance learning while also not having to worry about cramming in the material before the start of May. While some teachers are not changing anything and are just focusing on teaching the standards without standardized testing weighing on them, others are turning to new creative ideas.
Teachers can now focus on teaching the material and finding new ways to teach it rather than stressing about testing dates and lost instruction time as a result of standardized testing. Ms. Anna Reeves, a sixth-grade English teacher at Muller Road Middle School, said she will be taking advantage of this opportunity to teach using creative online methods. I really want to get back to some of the things that I used to do, like when I taught you. “It seems that there hasn’t been as much time for me to allow my students to create using technology because it takes time. Time to help them in class and time to allow them to share what they created with others, but it’s so meaningful, and they use lots of creativity and critical thinking skills when creating,” she shared.
Not only are teachers less stressed about having to cram material before testing, but students are less stressed as well. Many students do well in school but do not do well in a testing environment. Students feel as though these scores define them as a student regardless of what they may actually achieve in the classroom. But this year, students can really focus on learning the material and reflecting what they may have learned through the grades that have proved how students have done over a whole year rather than through one test.
Junior Abby Jones was stressed over her United States History End-of-Course exam as she does not usually do well in a testing environment. She stated, “I was really stressed over this exam but no longer have to now that it was canceled because of the coronavirus. I can actually focus on trying to learn the material instead of just trying to cram it all in for this one test.”
Freshman Ryan Shull was also scheduled to have an EOC for her Algebra 1 course. “I have done pretty well in my math class this year and was terrified that this one test would not make any of my hard work matter. It was even scarier thinking about how there would be so much material I would have to learn from lessons from home and not in an actual classroom. It is so relieving to know that I no longer have to stress over my EOC and that my grades from over the year will be what matters instead of one test on one day.”
Students, parents, and teachers will now be able to focus on the material while staying healthy and safe in their homes. With this distance learning and cancellation of standardized testing comes a new era of teaching and learning.
Organizations like SC for Ed have pushed for a limitation of standardized testing for years. According to a study by Christina Simpson from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, students spend a large amount of time preparing for standardized testing which can cause excessive stress. This stress has caused students to have issues with vomiting, headaches, sleep problems, depression, issues of attendance, acting out, and anxiety attacks. Standardized testing often causes for students to focus on passing a high stakes test rather than simply learning the material. With this year’s trial of no standardized testing due to COVID-19, students will be able to thrive and possibly prove that the education system would be better without testing.