All tests at Schreiber should be open note

All tests at Schreiber should be open note

Charlie Bosworth, Staff Writer

In this unprecedented time in which we are living, it is difficult to know what to do when it comes to academic testing.  Obviously, the pandemic-related circumstances have made it impossible to administer tests in the usual ways, so teachers have needed to make adjustments.  Although some changes have improved the testing system, there are many additional ways that the playing field can be evened for all students, including the transition to completely open note tests.  

Part of the problem with our current testing system is that a test can be scheduled for a Blue Team day with the White Team not having to take it until the next class period.  This has one glaring problem, which is that delays in between those specific letter days can occur.  Holidays and weekends can occur in between the days that the tests are given, but teachers often do not account for these delays.  This can cause a large gap between when the test is administered for each half of the class.  On top of that, days that students miss in person, either from a present remote day or a scheduled absence, can cause an individual to have to wait an additional length of time, giving them more opportunities to study.  When school has been made fully virtual due to COVID-19 cases in the building, this has further delayed testing.  There have been situations where some hybrid students may take a test up to a week after other students, and this is quite unfair.  

“A student who takes a test far in advance of another has a disadvantage because they have less time to study,” said junior Kaeleigh Romero. 

It can sometimes be difficult for students who take a test later than others because teachers will continue moving through new material despite an unfinished assessment.  Beginning a new topic before some people take the test on the previous material is a disadvantage for those students because trying to retain information in another unit can be tricky. 

The fact that fully virtual students are never in school further complicates the issue of testing.  With increased pressure on teachers this year to keep classrooms safe and adopt new technologies and teaching processes, it simply does not make sense for them to have to carry the additional burden of making a completely separate test for the few remote kids.  

However, there is a clear and fair solution to all these issues: open note tests. 

“All remote kids will always have a huge advantage, so we need to have more open note exams,” said junior Jacob Ritholtz.

Open note tests, which would likely be more difficult than normal tests, would be fair, as everyone gets the chance to take the test at the same time with the same available class notes.  Furthermore, the ability of students to organize their notes in a productive manner would be key.  Generally, students with these study habits have done well in previous years, so it will pay off for them again.

The other major issue with the current testing system is that virtual students, whether hybrid or fully remote, have technology, class notes, and study guides at their disposal out of sight from the cameras.  Teachers have attempted to solve this problem by making students pledge to work on a test in a fair manner.  This is unenforceable, and while it may deter some students from cheating, others will still be tempted to gain an advantage when it comes to their grades.  Open note tests are a better solution because it prevents the uneven playing field of some students being watched in the classroom while others at home are not. 

“Kids in school are at a disadvantage due to the fact that their online counterparts are free to use whatever resources are available to them, including the internet, to help them on their tests.  By making the tests open note and more conceptually based, it levels the playing field for in-person and online students, while better testing the students’ understanding of the material,” said junior Matthew Pierre-Louis. 

An open notes test does not necessarily make a test easier, but rather allows the test to be altered in a way that forces the student to understand the material of the class in greater depth.  This means that students would be asked to apply certain concepts in a problem instead of simple memorization and recitation.  It also diminishes the influence of technology, as the questions should theoretically ask for more than just a fact that can be searched for on Google. 

One problem with having exclusively open note assessments is that when teachers want to give quizzes, it may be difficult to reformat them into a conceptual manner.  This can be solved with the mandatory use of lockdown browsers on Google Forms and A.P. Classroom.  Combined with a teacher possibly observing the Chromebook screen through a second device, this model has potential, except it forces the teacher to lose focus on the in-school students.  This is not yet an effective solution, but it is a step in the right direction. 

Some may say that an open note test reduces the amount of information students retain, as they become more reliant on their notes.  If teachers create conceptually based tests with a higher number of questions in a shorter amount of time, this can be avoided.  Under these circumstances, students reliant on their notes would likely not finish the test and the notes would not give them direct answers.  Studying would still be necessary for open note exams.

“All tests should be open note because it is not fair to those students taking their tests in school, while others at home are most likely cheating,” said junior Rion Weber. 

While students are not inherently dishonest, the ability of some students to greatly improve their grades by using tools and notes not given to others is a huge problem in an environment as competitive as school.  The fact that the system is, in some cases, so easily exploitable calls into question the testing practices used thus far in this school year.  Open note tests would ensure that students get the most out of their school experience and that they do not have to stress out over whether they would have done better if they were at home or in school.  The inequalities of home versus school testing needs to be addressed by administrators and teachers, and they should adopt the use of open note exams.