About The COVID Slide: No Standardized Test Can Measure What Students Are Learning Now

Below is a graphic put out by EdWeek this past week concerning what has now being called the COVID Slide. It is akin to what is known as the “Summer Slide,” an overall term to describe the loss of learning when students are removed from the traditional classroom structure. The “Summer Slide” also shows what happens when the support systems of low-income and poverty-stricken students that schools provide are not available when school is not in session.


Many have offered the argument that when the pandemic subsides and students are able to get back to school without fear of a virus, then we should extend the school year into the summer.

Some have even gone as far as saying that students should repeat classes that were interrupted or even repeat the school year when we go back in the fall semester.  But while there is some validity in each of those arguments, it also needs to be argued that not all learning can really be measured.

When districts and this state try and ascertain what students have learned and achieved in a school year, they create quantifiable data mostly through the process of administering standardized tests.

Most of those tests are designed to have one correct answer for each question. Those test results then go into some sort of algorithmic conversion in a formulaic construct that spits out some sort of number. There still are the written response questions, but if you have noticed, those sorts of assessments on average require less articulation through voice rather than an adherence to form.

The classroom of the last four weeks and the curriculum that actual life has put in front of our students is completely different from the prescribed nature of education as it is defined today. And much to the chagrin of many a legislator and policymaker, not having control on how to measure (and possibly manipulate) data to represent what has “been learned” this part of the school year is a reality.

But a lot is still being learned by our students. A LOT!

No EOC could measure what our students are learning about our government and how it operates in times of crisis such as this pandemic. All students have to do is look at how our leaders on a national, state, and local level are showing actual leadership.

No NC Final could measure the gained understanding of personal finances in this period of time. When 6.6 million people filed for unemployment benefits just last week in this country and record amounts did so in this state, the reality of financial situations is literally staring students and their families in the face.

Imagine the science they are hearing about if they are trying to keep up with the coronavirus and how to protect themselves and their health.

Many students are learning how to be even more vital parts of their family’s existence. The responses this teacher has gotten from students who are helping out at home with taking care of others, working for income, or maintaining households while parents are working are manifold.

There are skills in time management, resource gathering, and independent learning that may not have been learned as authentically as they are now.

What many of our students are learning both explicitly and through inference is how important fully funding schools and social services can be.

Watching hospitals prepare and brace for unknown cases is teaching our students a lot about our society’s priorities. When you count the number of meals that school systems are still handing out to students and families, that is teaching people about the absolute need in communities for basic sustenance. That resistance of expanding Medicaid in this state to help cover hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians? That is teaching a lot in and of itself.

And all in an incredibly important election year.

Now back to the idea of extending the school year or repeating classes.

It’s hard to imagine being able to extend the school year into the summer without an incredibly huge fight from the tourism industry which already dictates our traditional school year schedule. Repeating a year for students means extra funding for those who come back through the same classrooms as they did last year but still allow new students to keep progressing.

And it doesn’t take a genius to see that our schools are not fully funded.

There’s so much that students are learning firsthand right now. Hard to measure that.