Counterpoint: why AP tests and Regents should happen this year

For the past year our nation has been dealing with a devastating pandemic that has taken millions of lives worldwide, and more than  half a million in the United States alone.  Friends can no longer be within six feet of one another, masks are a worldwide norm, and students are learning from home.  Many students are distracted and lack the same urge to learn while sitting behind their screen, isolated from their peers and teachers.  In addition, the learning experience across New York varies considerably based on numerous factors such as their split between classroom and remote learning, the availability of teachers, and the learning environment possible within their homes.  These factors make it extremely hard to compare test scores fairly.  This brings the question, is it right to administer a state wide test knowing that students are not receiving an equal, secure learning environment and education this year?

Throughout this school year, students have been overwhelmed with an unstable learning environment.  COVID-19 cases frequently pop up, creating instability in the school schedule and resulting in school closures or fully remote school weeks.  When students are remote they are required to look at a computer screen for nearly seven hours straight, which can inflict significant eye strain and extreme tiredness.  It is difficult for students to focus on the material being taught to them on remote days and the amount of remote days students have is highly dependent on the COVID-19 situation in their community.  

“I believe there is a major disadvantage in learning online opposed to learning in person in school.  It is much more difficult to focus and understand what is being taught when I’m at home, which is a problem when around half of my schooling occurs remotely,” said freshman Harrison Roth.

Due to the risk of all students and teachers being in the same building at once, many schools have adopted a hybrid approach.  This hybrid approach allows half of the students to remotely learn, while half of the students are learning within the classroom.  In addition, if a student comes in contact with someone who has COVID-19 prior to the Regents, they would be unable to attend school making it a very difficult test to administer.  Canceling the Regents will show that the school’s across New York put student and teacher safety first.

“I feel like there are a lot of issues regarding the security of taking the Regents while in quarantine as many students do not feel comfortable learning online, let alone taking tests.   It’s also really hard to moderate test taking online, even with cameras.  Especially since students find it hard to learn online, they may be inclined to cheat on the Regents which jeopardizes the security of the testing,” says freshman Advait Nair.

Throughout New York State, there is a large variety of living environments which make it especially difficult to process the material necessary for Regents.  Students who do not have a stable wifi connection experience an extreme disadvantage because they always have to fear missing out on key points and questions.  Another factor that causes extreme educational differences are the working environment.  Children may not be able to focus due to background noises and different situations that go on at home.  Furthermore, students may worry about their privacy being violated from home.

“While I am at home it is extremely hard for me to focus due to distractions like my phone, tv’s in the background, or having to help my parents with something.  This can cause me to miss important lessons, whereas, if I was in school I would not have to worry about those situations,” says freshman Michael Scott.

Last year, AP tests took place online in a limited fashion. Testing curriculums were shortened to ensure equity and that material being tested on had been taught in person.  This year, these existing inequities in education, such as the students’ learning environment, have been magnified.  Last year’s AP tests only occurred because most of the year had been taught in person. This is not the case this year, and the same arguments that apply to New York State individually scale out across America. 

COVID-19 has made it extremely difficult to create an equal and beneficial schooling system.  Diminished abilities to teach, difficulty scheduling, and general disruption in student’s lives have created an environment not conducive for  learning.  As a result, the AP and Regents exams should be cancelled.  It is obvious that students who have trouble keeping focus have suffered the most, and expecting them to do test prep, rather than focus on already challenging learning, will do more harm than good.  Canceling these tests is the only fair conclusion to make.