Mandated Testing in Schools


ACT and district testing have had somewhat of a similar look over the years. However, with the start of the pandemic, many things changed and this includes the way these tests are being done.

As of now, ACT testing is still done in person although it has gone through its share of changes as the in-person structure of these tests is now having to follow COVID-19 guidelines.

What would have once filled a classroom full of 25 to 30 students has now gone significantly down.

Guidance counselors Kim Coney and Shana Glasgow oversee how ACT testing events and the like occur at Watonga and Geary schools, respectively.

“We would test up to 60 kids on a weekend for the ACT,” Coney said. “With COVID, we have to have them six feet apart and in order to get them in a room, we can only get 15 in a room.”

While still a struggle, Coney said being able to only test 15 kids in one room has been made easier with the additional ACT test dates throughout the months they occur.

At times Coney may have two rooms of 15 students taking the ACT. On top of this, up to three tests could be done in a month thus making it as accessible as possible for the students.

Social distancing is not the only precaution ACT has put in place for those taking the test. A portion of their Frequently Asked Questions section of their website has been dedicated to questions about COVID-19.

Along with social distancing, masks must also be worn and every student taking the test will be subject to a health screening before taking the exam. Students who may be ill on the day of testing can reschedule their exams at no cost.

As of right now, both Geary and Watonga schools offer the choice for students to do in-person, virtual learning, or a mixture of both, however, when it comes to testing, students don’t have that option.

“The state has said all students who are full-virtual are required to come to the school to take their state assessments with an in-person proctor. Districts are having to make arrangements to accommodate those virtual learners,” Glasgow said. “According to the ACT website, the option for remote testing with them is under development, but still not available at this time.”

Visiting the ACT website’s Remote Testing section, you are greeted with a message telling users that remote testing is under development and that, “ACT continues to work toward a remote proctoring solution.”

With remote testing comes the possibility of cheating during the ACT or other mandated tests. Glasgow believes this could be one of the reasons that remote testing is still under development as cheating has become an issue with testing virtually.

“They have to be sure the results are valid, especially when those scores are still being tied to college scholarship money,” Glasgow said. “Obviously being able to test remotely would make it easier on students and perhaps even increase the number of students choosing to take the ACT multiple times, but ACT will not offer that until they know for certain they can do so in a secure way.”

Combating cheating in regular classroom testing has also been an effort made by many teachers, as Glasgow noted that when talking to teachers from around the state, many have implemented different methods.

“Some [teachers] are just allowing students to use whatever resources they have to complete assessments, and some are requiring them to be completed while in front of their camera so the teacher can see them,” Glasgow said.

Overall, things have become more streamlined this year compared to last spring as no Oklahoma student took any state standardized test due to all testing being canceled.

“I think the problem at the end of last year with the school systems was that their hands were tied because they couldn’t get into the building to give the tests,” Coney said. “At the end of the year, we were like, ‘OK, there’s no school. You can’t have kids in the building. How can you give an ACT?’ I think now that they’re in the building, they have the guidelines, and as long as your building is open, then it hasn’t been a problem.”

Moving ACT or even state-mandated standardized testing toward virtual could have both advantages and disadvantages. Coney notes that technical issues could pose a significant problem if students were to take these tests at home. Things such as faulty internet or getting locked out of the test are some concerns she raised.

“When you’re doing standardized testing, even on the state level, when it says the student clicks a wrong button it can kick them out of the test. When they’re here the monitor is able to go in, get the password from the state, put it in the computer, and the kid can continue testing without having to start all the way over,” Coney said. “I can see that being a huge downfall if it’s virtual and there’s nobody there to take care of that.”