Online classes are terrible. Frequent tech and internet issues, along with an isolated environment, make it difficult to stay engaged. Curriculums have been rushed in order to be covered completely, resulting in students’ shallow comprehension of class materials. Teachers are behind schedule as they attempt to help struggling students. As the school year approaches, we are moving toward a standardized testing goal we are woefully ill prepared for.
Any exam, test or standardized assessment should take into account the abysmal learning environment of the past seven months. It isn’t a fair challenge to ask of students, even if we finish the school year conventionally, which schools in New Mexico plan to do starting April 5, according to the New Mexico Public Education Department.
Opening schools to get students back on track was part of President Joe Biden’s campaign. Despite positive intentions, this plan ignores the real issue of subpar education during the pandemic.
Parents are sick of having their kids at home. Students and educators are overwhelmed. But as a student, I am concerned for the health and safety of my peers and teachers, as well as myself. Given the current rate of vaccinations, though high in New Mexico compared to other states, I don’t think it is a good idea to open schools anytime soon. Teachers were only recently prioritized for vaccinations.
It is unreasonable to assume schools are ready to be at capacity and for students to remain fully focused academically, while still practicing social distancing and worrying about the virus in a setting where the inherent design works against pandemic safety measures. It is also unreasonable to ask students to trust their peers and do the right thing when, in this global crisis, the definition of those choices is different for almost everyone. But reason does not prevail when people are impatient.
To compound the issue, students who need to stay home will inevitably receive a different standard of education. This will likely result in one group being better prepared than the other, even though they will be measured by the same standardized tests.
This problem cannot magically be solved by opening schools for the final two months of a catastrophic school year. We are not going to completely make up for the curriculum we missed in such a short time.
A bad grade this year does not reflect anyone’s academic ability. Test scores may, this year especially, reflect badly upon students, though they are not a realistic measure of skill, motivation or intelligence.
We need to be realistic and simply cut our losses. Forget the assessments and forget rushing to open schools. Leaders should focus on planning for next year — make sure the upcoming seniors can receive a proper education and retain information they are being taught. As for assessing current seniors, schools should have enough data on academic performance to give us diplomas without an exam. Many of us have already achieved our goal of getting into college.
What matters more than standardized testing is protecting the health and safety of teachers and students; prioritizing scores over people’s well-being is setting a dangerous example for future generations.