Convent & Stuart Hall will hold Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams for seniors in April and May despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The College Board, which administers Advanced Placement examinations, has delegated testing responsibilities to schools, allowing them to decide whether they will require all students to be in-person for exams.
“The College Board gave us the option to have a digital exam,” registrar Betsy Pfeiffer said. “They’re going to offer full-length, digital tests for some subjects — not all, but some. We felt that students should be able to choose if they want to take it at home or in-person.”
The International Baccalaureate, which administers IB examinations, did not give schools the same choice.
“They asked, ‘Are you open?’ and ‘Are you allowed to host exams?’” IB Coordinator Devin DeMartini Cooke said.
Schools were required to submit information to the IB regarding the capacity of a school to host students on campus, and the IB decided whether a school could hold exams.
“We had to declare to the IB that we’ve been offering in-person instruction since November,” Head of School Tony Farrell said, “therefore, we qualify as an in-person testing school.”
For schools that are not open or cannot host exams, IB is offering a non-exam route.
“If you do the non-exam route, scores are calculated based on a variation of your Internal Assessment scores and predicted scores as well as an algorithm that looks at historical data of a school and other information,” Cooke said.
IB has amended testing content for schools taking the exam route in May of 2021. The organization has also altered the content of juniors’ May 2022 examinations.
“They’ve gone through and removed a chunk of content from examinations so that schools were able to focus more significantly on what would be tested,” Cooke said. “They condensed the material to account for any lost instructional time because of the COVID-19
Farrell says he is confident in the IB’s decision to hold tests because of the IB’s testing philosophy.
“The IB has an inherently dynamic approach when it comes to ascertaining how someone knows how to apply what they know,” Farrell said. “IB is trying to build an assessment that may accommodate for learning loss for any reason.”
Some teachers say they believe holding exams will be beneficial for students.
“I’m very glad that we’re giving the exams, especially because last year the formula that they used was based off the school’s past performance, and for me every class is unique,” IB Math teacher Lindsay MacGarva said. “I want this because it’s the first year of the new math curriculum.”
Other teachers say they have mixed feelings about holding exams.
“I know some students will be wondering about how well-prepared they are,” IB English HL teacher Daniel Popplewell said. “It’s going to be different for different students. Some are going to benefit from this rigorous exam experience.”
Some students say they would prefer not to have exams, particularly because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their learning.
“I believe the pandemic has made it extremely hard to keep regular and consistent study, especially with our changing schedules,” senior Peter Wolfe said. “While I do believe the school has all the facilities in place to hold the tests, I also believe that our education has been greatly affected by the pandemic, and holding the tests would not be the best indicator of our strength as students.”
Faculty, however, say they are confident in students’ abilities despite the effects of COVID-19 on mental health and instructional time.
“We do believe our students will be successful with examinations,” DeMartini Cooke said. “This does feel like an advantage for our students.”