Dear Teachers,


Jillian Parks

Even after being back only two weeks in person, teachers have not shied away from giving tests. With some students remaining online and some students opting for in-person instruction, concerns have been raised about the fairness of in-person students taking tests during the designated class period. However, I pose a challenge to that line of thought. Rather than allowing all students to take tests whenever with whatever resources, tests need to take note of this time of change and learn from it. Memorization and regurgitation tests have always been ineffective, and now more than ever with the temptation of available resources, more critical-thinking questions need to take the lead. 

Memorizing facts was a far more useful skill back when Encyclopedias were the closest to Google a person could get. Nowadays, people have computers and handheld computers at their fingertips 24/7. If someone needs to know the number of grams of energy a carbohydrate yields, a Google search is seconds away. Students are not going to spend time racking their brains for mathematical romulus when the internet makes it so easily accessible. History, in general, speaks for itself. Forcing students to cram-study facts and formulas only leads to increased stress and anxiety, released only after the test when people forget everything they read. 

Does that mean these subjects are not necessary to learn? Absolutely not. The value of these courses can be found in the critical-thinking, the free-response, the applications between then and now. Whether teachers want to believe it or not, if given the opportunity, students will often use their notes. The culmination of social pressure on grades and the perceived weight that grades have on one’s future can cause students to commit academic dishonesty. Students have been told since elementary school to “use their resources.” From a student perspective, notes sitting in on the desk right next to you are resources during a test. How to remedy this? By asking questions that use concepts and facts, but require application or wider-world connections to ensure that a student can understand not just absorb. 

Some will point to the successes of the past education system. “Our parents are smart and successful now, and a lot of them do not remember half of what they learned in high school!” Exactly. When students sit in a class that they know they are not going to remember or use, they are far more inclined to cheat or follow the cycle of memorizing and forgetting. A new testing style would encourage and require students to engage on a deeper level, and get skills that will help them whether or not they intend to use chemistry or algebra or history of the Chinese Communist Party in the future. 

Corona has allowed for unique situations all around, but trying to cram those unique situations into pre-COVID boxes would be a waste of time and opportunity. Reformation of the testing policy could lead to better critical thinkers, learners, and education all around. Repressing potential cheating and buying eye-tracking technology will not do nearly as much good as forcing students to think.