Reactions to COVID-19: GaDOE, College Board to Update Testing Procedures

Oliver Hurst, Staff writer

The following story is part of a series of articles about the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. Other articles in the series can be found here.

As the coronavirus pandemic escalates, schooling around the country has been disrupted due to widespread social distancing measures taken to lessen the outbreak’s impact. In Georgia, for example, schools are being closed until further notice. But despite technological improvements that enable online learning, many students are finding that learning in school versus learning online is not just the same.

Due to school closures in this unprecedented time, many have been wondering how state- and nation-wide testing will continue, especially because April and May are prime testing months. The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) has already announced that all state-mandated exams, including the Milestones, will be postponed indefinitely. This decision seems rather rash for many students, who feel like there is still a fair amount of time between now and the April Milestones testing dates. 

“I feel like postponing the state tests is a little jumpy since we’re all still doing online learning and we can ask teachers for help, so we are still learning all the material for the tests,” said freshman Nick Harrison. “I don’t think it was necessary because the tests are in April. It’s March, and nothing too big has happened to warrant postponing those tests.”

Advanced Placement (AP) students are also worrying about AP exams, which are traditionally taken in May. Additionally, each AP exam costs just under 100 dollars, and if students do well on AP exams, they have the opportunity to receive college credit. The College Board, which runs AP classes and exams, has recently made an announcement regarding AP exams on March 20. This year, all exams, except those that involve a portfolio or paper, will be 45-minute online exams composed only of free-response questions, meaning there will be no multiple-choice testing involved, as detailed by Trevor Packer, the head of the College Board’s AP program. 

Furthermore, these exams will be abridged due to the loss of in-class instruction caused by COVID-19: many exams will not be covering the last couple of units associated with the class. Students will also be able to choose between two test dates, which will be released later. 

Many students are less than thrilled about this news, fearing how easy cheating could be with online exams.

“[AP exams being online] ruins the integrity of the test, as people can just work together or cheat,” said senior Nick Markiewicz.

The College Board has recognized these concerns and stated that it will take precautions to prevent cheating. 

“The exams will be secure,” the College Board said. “We’re using a variety of digital security tools, including plagiarism detection software.” 

Starting March 25, the College Board is also providing live, free AP exam review sessions. The lesson schedule can be found here. In addition to this, a contact form for students in need of Internet connectivity was also provided.

Yet regardless of the form of the exam or the help provided, students seem to still feel unprepared due to the loss of class time.

“I feel a lot less prepared for my AP exams and a lot more overwhelmed by the thought of taking them, regardless of the method that the College Board decides to take,” said Rachel Choi. “Time management is not my strong suit, so if I have to self-study for five AP exams, I don’t have a good feeling about the tests.”

That said, students do seem to recognize why the College Board has made these tough decisions, even if they are not ideal. 

“I think that the changes that the College Board has made are definitely necessary, but I’m a little disappointed that the exams are so short because I feel like one bad question could ruin my scores,” said sophomore Andrew Pietkiewicz.

Despite these major changes in not only course material but also exam format, the College Board has ensured that students can still get college credit by taking AP exams. In addition, AP courses with portfolio submissions, including AP Drawing, AP 2-D and 3-D Art and Design, and AP Research, will have their portfolio deadlines extended and the required number of pieces adjusted. For example, AP Research will just require students to submit their research paper instead of also submitting a presentation with an oral response. And for AP Drawing, only 10 pieces are required for the sustained investigation portion of the submission, as opposed to the original 15. 

This article will be updated as more information is released. The College Board’s full press release from March 20 can be found here.