How to Manage State-Mandated Testing after COVID

Kelly Nelson-Danley
Kelly Nelson-Danley
Assistant elementary school principal; Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction

State mandated testing has always been a hot topic in education. It is certainly on the radar of educators this year, after COVID has impacted teaching and learning in so many ways. Many feel that state testing should be canceled this year; however, the US Department of Education has required that testing go on as normal.

For many teachers, the thought of students enduring hours of testing and students filling in bubbles silently is a scary thing this year. Testing often puts pressure on teachers, administrators, and districts to focus on test preparation, and many feel that testing should be created by teachers with the goal of learning more about students in mind.

High-stakes testing is often considered old school, especially when classroom instruction has moved away from traditional testing into more informal and standards-based ways of assessing students. Although students haven’t received a traditional educational experience this year, they are still expected to take state-mandated tests. Here are a few ways to manage state-mandated testing after COVID.

Get Organized

When it comes to managing state-mandated testing after COVID, logistics can seem overwhelming. By getting organized, administrators and teachers can ensure a smooth testing process for staff, students, and families. Ways to get organized include:

  • Create a Testing Schedule – Most public schools have offered virtual and in-person learning this year. Considering this, virtual students will need to enter the physical school building in order to take standardized tests. By creating a schedule for online testers and in-person testers, schools can be prepared to administer tests to all students.
  • Consult with Specialists – Exceptional Childrens’ Teachers (EC Teachers) will be aware of testing accommodations and modifications needed for students with 504 plans and IEPs. Consulting with EC Teachers and other specialists such as Speech and ESL, will help you create plans for students with special needs.
  • Create Clear Expectations – Create a clear plan for testing day and share the plan with your staff. This might include testing locations, administrators, proctors, and arrival/dismissal procedures.
  • Consider School Safety – It is important to plan for social distancing as much as possible during testing. For example, place student desks six feet apart and follow state healthcare guidance regarding COVID safety and regulations.

Communicate with Parents and Families

After securing a plan for testing students, it’s important to communicate this plan to students and their families. Once schools have solidified their testing plans, the test dates and procedures can be shared with families so that they can make arrangements to have students participate. This should be done in a variety of ways. Most districts sent letters out to parents of test takers that include dates and testing specifics. Schools should also reiterate this information to students and families by sharing information on social media and school communication tools such as Class Dojo and Google Classroom.

Make it Fun

Yes, you read that heading correctly. It is important to make testing as fun as possible, especially following the pandemic. How can we possibly do this? Be creative! Think about playing inspiring music over the loudspeakers/intercom on test day announcements. You could also send out a special and inspiring video to students before testing, possibly in the form of a read aloud or song! Two great read aloud books include Testing Miss Malarky by Judy Finchler and The Biggest Test in the Universe by Nancy Poydar. These books are great ways to ease students’ test anxiety.

Consider a Variety of Data Sources for Teacher Evaluations

Let’s face it, this year has been a challenging year for teachers and students. Teachers have not been able to deliver content to all students due to circumstances out of their hands (such as attendance and quarantines). This means that, although EVAAS will be a factor in teacher performance, it shouldn’t be the only factor in determining the effectiveness of teachers. Data sources such as district reading and math assessments (MCLASS and iReady for example) can help determine what growth students have made throughout the year.

Additionally, classroom walkthrough data can be viewed in order to determine how effective teachers were during the course of COVID. Many districts have utilized online walkthroughs for administrators to use during hybrid/virtual learning. This served as a way to check the fidelity of teaching during the pandemic.

Considering the challenges COVID has imposed upon education, it is still important to remember that educators can still use EOG data to determine gaps in instruction, plan to remediate and close those gaps, and set classroom and schoolwide goals for increasing student achievement. Using standardized test results to set a clear path to improving student needs is key. If educators keep this at the forefront of data examination, students will ultimately benefit.

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