As threats of the COVID-19, a strain of the coronavirus, increase, schools and colleges throughout the nation have closed their doors. On Thursday, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced all public schools in the state would remain closed though at least April 24 and colleges like the University of Georgia are closing down for the remainder of the school year.
The school closures have left students and educators to learn and teach via “distance learning,” a method that relies on virtual learning programs like Schoology, Powerschool, and Google Classroom to distribute content.
Major standardized tests like the Georgia Milestones/End of Course Exams and SATs have all been canceled for the school year. The College Board’s Advanced Placement Exams, although not canceled have been heavily altered for 2020 Exams. CollegeBoard has stated, “students can take a 45-minute online free-response exam at home.”
According to Trevor Packer, Senior Vice President and Head of the AP Program, the test will “not include any multiple-choice questions, [but] only free-response questions adapted for secure testing at home.” The CollegeBoard has stated, due to the shortened school year, the test will only cover specific units that have most likely been universally covered by schools across the country.
SATs and ACTs through May have now been canceled and refunds have been given to students who paid for the exam. Seniors, who hoped to take the test one last time are now left with little to no options. For Juniors, hoping to take the SAT early for early admission to colleges in the Fall now must wait till June. Even with some additional time, there is still a lurking possibility that tests will be further postponed.
Colleges across the country are now questioning whether or not they should even include standardized testing in their admissions process. Georgia Southern University, in Statesboro, Georgia said they would not require students with “a sufficiently high GPA” to submit SAT and ACT scores for the 2020 Fall applicants.
While the nation’s educational districts and systems are rethinking and coming up with new strategies to prepare for this abrupt new reality, students have been left to come up with ways to pass time while quarantining at home.
Relief Turns to Reality
Initially excited to be relieved from school for at least two weeks, students are now facing the realities of not being able to socialize with peers and get direct help from teachers on the subject content. Even worse, the millions of students throughout the country who rely on school breakfast and lunch for a reliable, hot meal have now been left in the dark. Although school districts across the state have offered to provide lunches to these students, many have no method of transportation to and from the schools.
Millions of single parents, who cannot afford to hire a nanny or have no family to help take care of their children have also been left stranded. Even worse, millions of American parents have lost their jobs or haven’t been scheduled for work due to the closures of restaurants, bars, and retail stores that have been forced to shut their doors because of the virus. With no employment, these parents, although at home, can’t make the rent, car notes, or even buy groceries come April 1.
Congressional Money Is Not Enough
The virus is not only an economic problem for the country but a humanitarian one that will require swift and meaningful action from Washington D.C. The two trillion dollar stimulus package Congress has been working around the clock this week to pass and send to the president for signing simply can’t work by itself this time for the American people.
The education system for the country’s universities and schools is effectively shut down, which could have a far greater impact than how the Dow Jones Industrial average is currently doing. Without the proper ability for students to learn and collect important knowledge, the nation is in far greater trouble. It isn’t a question that school districts weren’t prepared or ready to shut down. On Friday, March 13, teachers across the state, confused and unaware of the closures, scrambled to find lesson plans and content to teach.
The Milestones, a standardized test administered to children as young as second-grade has now been canceled. For elementary teachers throughout Georgia, this is viewed as testing season. With testing now being canceled, teachers are basically teaching material for a test students won’t even take, which now calls into question why students are still being taught content just to pass a standardized test.
The COVID-19 virus has blatantly exposed the flaws of the nation’s economic and health systems but especially of our education system. We’re in deep trouble if the country is hit with something much worse than COVID-19. It’s important in times of need that students can still learn and find ways to interact with one another, not wonder how they’re gonna eat breakfast. Teachers, meanwhile, shouldn’t have to worry about teaching students just to pass a standardized test.
Schools Are Too Reliant On Standardized Tests
The COVID-19 virus will and already has drastically altered our lives for better or for worse. It’s important that we recognize our educational flaws and fix them. To help prevent kids from ever missing a meal, local and state governments need to create and help fund food programs that directly go to the households of lower-income and students in need. For those who are unable to pick up food from their schools, it should be delivered to them via school buses.
COVID-19 has also exposed how reliant schools have become on standardized testing. Although it is important to keep track of schools’ performances, shaping a whole curriculum around a test that could be canceled is nonsensical. Instead, schools need to have provisions and protocols in place where effective learning can continue without the need for a standardized test.
It’s important that we maintain an education system where students can comfortably depend on their districts and schools for a quality and reliable education.