Why It’s More Critical Than Ever to Ethically Prepare Students for High-Stakes Assessments
With the advent of COVID 19, distance learning, and the upcoming online state assessments, there are many previously unforeseen testing related challenges. According to a recent Pew survey, low-income students continue to encounter numerous obstacles to learning at home that their more affluent counterparts do not experience. This includes using educational technology even though widespread broadband use and school hardware availability are at an all-time high.
Unfortunately, current research indicates the digital divide has not disappeared. According to the Pew survey, 72% of parents of K-12 students with lower incomes are more likely than middle-income and upper-income parents to say they are very or somewhat concerned about their children falling behind in school due to disruptions caused by the pandemic. Furthermore, the survey indicates that low-income parents believe they are less likely to provide the necessary help their children need to master grade-level content. Although the number of parents showing concern is higher among low income parents, more than 50% of all parents are equally concerned.
Writing for the economic policy institute, Emma García and Elaine Weiss indicate that distance learning has exacerbated pre-COVID social and economic disparities. Their research suggests that almost all students lost learning opportunities. Additionally, the pandemic has exacerbated the inequalities inherent in standardized testing, which tends to favor students who have access to specialized instruction. It is also undeniably obvious that distance learning is not working very well for almost all students Therefore, it is undebatable that we must ensure all students do not follow further behind and we must prepare all students for their upcoming assessments.
Obviously, there are many learning and instructional challenges that reinforce the critical need for ethical test preparation. There are essential differences between ethical test preparation and merely practicing for a specific test. These differences concern the ethical appropriateness of test preparation for students taking high stakes assessments.
Here are some of the key differences between the two concepts:
According to James Popham, Emeritus Professor in the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, proper test preparation must adhere to two specific test preparation standards.
Standards Plus programs teach the content and the learning behaviors that all students need in order to master their grade-level standards. This is an irrefutable learning goal for all students, especially for at-risk students. It should also be evident that students with less experience with digital learning, with inadequate resources at home, or those who are not familiar with the test-specific tasks inherent in high stakes testing, will most likely not perform well when tested.
At Standards Plus, we believe there is a third element to ethical test preparation. This is to ensure that students receive direct instruction of test-specific tasks that they must perform during on-line testing. These are tasks that they do not routinely encounter in their regular curricula. It may be as simple as learning to “drag and drop” text or as complicated as deconstructing a prompt, writing to a rubric, or using an online protractor. It is essential that students learn to perform these tasks before testing. Standards Plus digital materials embed these testing routines and directly instruct students how to address the unique requirements integral to testing situations while teaching important grade level content.
Standards Plus adheres to Poham’s standards for ethical test preparation because the driving focus of all Standards Plus programs is to improve student learning and to master grade-level standards. The consequential outcome is that students perform at higher levels on their high-stakes state assessments. Furthermore, Standards Plus materials are proven to narrow the social and economic differences exacerbated by COVID-19. We believe that Standards Plus Programs will prevent the learning disparities worsened by distance learning while preparing students for high-stakes assessments.