My Latest REflections on COVID – Exams and Emotions

AAIE Featured this Graphic in their Latest COVID Briefing

The Association for the Advancement of International Education in their latest COVID Briefing featured an article in The Economist titled, “The Pandemic has Prompted Questions About High-Stakes Exams: But other ways of assessing students creates new problems”. The article gives an overview on how the closure of schools last spring, wreaked havoc on summative assessments (final exams) all over the world. The annual International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme exams taken each May were cancelled for TIS students. Instead, the students received final grades based on pieces of work submitted through the 2-year programme (IA – internal assessments) and teacher predicted grades. Controversially, the IB also used historical averages from TIS and subject areas to determine final grades. This sparked outrage and the IB raised everyone’s marks instead of fighting the battle.

School systems all of over the world were affected by school closures. The disruption has education experts re-thinking the value of exams and what alternatives are out there. France for example is moving to 40% school work and 60% final exam or many American universities are waiving ACT and SAT (university admissions tests) scores as part of the admission process. The global trend is to put less emphasis on the final exams, but this puts pressure on teachers and last year’s results in England, show evidence of grade inflation. I don’t think the IB this May will cancel exams to avoid the rukus from families. They have shortened exams in some subject areas as a nod to reduced on-campus learning.

I personally think final exams are better than any alternative assessments of students. They motivate students to learn ideas, skills and content. It is an objective measure. I do see the problems of poor schools, rich parents paying for test preparation courses or some students not doing well under pressure. However, I feel it is better than anything else education has come up with yet.

AAIE also shared a Washington Post article and podcast “Remote School is Leaving Children Sad and Angry” describing the emotional toll Virtual Learning takes on some students. TIS has been fortunate to be able to re-open the campus and we just completed our seventh week of learning in person. We hope to continue. I would add that not only is there an emotional toll on students, but also a physical one. Students are less active at home than they are at school. I saw the physical deterioration of my three teenage children during our 88 days of online learning.

Finally, they recommend the book for parents, The Distance Learning Playbook for Parents K-12 by the Cultures of Dignity group.

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