Standardized testing altered to accommodate safety protocols

by Makahla Charles

UPCOMING TEST DATES: An infographic showcases upcoming dates for AP, FSA, and EOC exams. Some dates are subject to change due to the unpredictability of COVID-19, while others must be decided upon by districts. Infographic by Makahla Charles.

As students approach the end of a digital school year, questions regarding state testing have arisen. Schools in Broward County have begun plans to initiate assessments such as the End of Course exam (EOC), Florida Standardized Assessment (FSA) and Advanced Placement exams (AP). These have been scheduled, but whether they will be in person or online is yet to be decided.

Due to CDC guidelines, testing this year will be noticeably different from what students and teachers are used to seeing. Mask wearing, social distancing and frequent hand sanitizer use are to be put into place in case of testing in schools. While there is still a chance of online exams, College Board as well as schools and districts have created plans for the possibility of in-school testing. Although the Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test (PSAT) was taken on Jan. 26 in school for sophomores, testing methods for the SAT, FSA, and EOC have yet to be determined. School administrations and testing coordinators are trying to reassure families that safety measures are being put in place to ensure their student’s security.

“There is administration constantly looking at numbers to make sure that we do not have more people in one location than what we should,” said Ariana Lozano, Testing Administrator at West Broward. “Everyone in the room has to wear masks which is already normal procedure on campus. This is all just to make it more comfortable for staff and students.”

   In order to administer the PSAT, Lozano had to send out a survey to sophomores on whether or not they plan on to coming to school for testing. Once this was complete, she began to organize the 351 students into rooms of eight. Materials such as wipes, and hand sanitizer were in each testing room. Students and instructors were more than six feet apart from each other. 

   “Students had to bring their own materials in regard to pencils and calculators because those were not provided. There were some backup pencils there if a student didn’t have theirs or if it broke, so they could grab it and continue testing.” Lozano said.

PSAT FOR SOPHOMORES: West Broward places a flyer concerning the PSAT on Canvas. It informs students of the PSAT on Jan. 26th for sophomores and the regulations put in place to protect their health. Flyer by West Broward High School.

   The in-school SAT will take place across multiple testing dates: Mar. 3, Mar. 24, Apr.13, and Apr. 27. College Board is also providing weekend SATs on Mar. 13, May 8, and Jun. 5. They require testing sites to implement mask wearing and social distancing. In order to protect the health of both students and proctors, schools will have a choice of administering the test earlier or later in the day and providing off site testing. The institution also urges colleges to extend deadlines for SAT scores and be understanding if a student was not able to take the test at all.

   “They want to have a regular testing season because what is happening is some colleges may or may not accept your scores due to the validity of taking these tests at home. They want to give students the opportunity to earn full college credit by taking the exam in person and in school, so that it can be applied towards their college transcript.” said Meredith Laffin, AP World History teacher.  

   Additionally, College Board has sent out information concerning the 2021 AP exams. Testing regulations will be similar to both the SAT and PSAT. However, each subject has three administration dates between early May and June. Most subjects will have the choice between digital exams and paper tests depending on the exam date their AP coordinators choose. Digital exams will be the same length and test the same material as paper tests, but students will not be able to go back and forth between questions.

   “I do know that they are offering certain select schools a later testing date which would be in June rather than the standard testing date which is in May. I also know that they have to consider that they are students in this country that are not going to school at all. Some districts are completely closed and have no in-person learning.” Laffin said.

   While plans are underway for some exams, others are still uncertain. Both the Florida State Assessment (FSA) which will take place between April and May and the EOC which will take place early May and July are administered later in the year. Teachers and staff have yet to be notified as to whether state tests will be in class or online.

   “We are waiting for the district. With a new president comes different federal requirements or guidelines from the Department of Education. Until the Federal Department of Education meets with the states with regard to what is going on, then the states do what they plan to do and relay that to their district.” Lozano said.

   Despite the ambiguity for testing this year, educators are still teaching their lessons with modification for online learning. Through quizzes, lessons, videos, and textbooks, teachers attempt to teach as if everything was normal. The education process of teachers has always been to teach the material of the subject and not just the test itself.

   “I’ve never really been a teacher who teaches to prepare for the test. I teach them because I believe it is super interesting and I want them to learn the cool stuff that I know. Because I do that, I teach the test,” said Donna Yard, biology teacher. “Even if we don’t have an End of Course exam, I think that they are going to remember some of the stuff they learned this year just because they found it interesting.”

   While some testing this year is still unresolved, both districts and students understand that, in some way, schools will find a way to continue this practice during the pandemic. A return to a sense of normalcy is important for many, so schools continue to push for in school testing and written exams like previous years. With the help of safety regulations and mask wearing, in-school testing may very much be possible. 

   “School by school is going to have to make sure students are separated and wearing masks. They will have to bring all of their own materials meaning their own pencils or calculators. But, other than that, we are going to try and operate as normal,” Laffin said.

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