A look inside the decision to cancel IB testing for second straight year

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Graphic by Holden Kilbane

A lot has changed for the reality of IB testing due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Hear from various teachers and students about their thoughts on these changes.

Isabella Lo

On Feb. 4, the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) announced a dual route for the May 2021 examination sessions, a decision made in consideration of the impacts of COVID-19. 

In January, IB worked with over 3,000 schools across the world to determine if they could safely administer the exams in-person or implement the non-exam route: calculating grades based on Internal Assessments and Predicted Grades.

Because of the local situation and lack of in-person learning at the time of the decision, it was announced that students would take the non-exam route.

This decision also had impacts on testing in 2022: reductions for this year’s exams will be extended to next year’s exams. For example, for Global Politics, students will not take the Paper 1, and for sciences, there will not be a Paper 3. All modifications can be found here. The only exception is that listening comprehension will be added back to World Language exams (Language B). 

In assessing the situation in Portland, Lincoln IB Coordinator Kim Bliss worked with Principal Peyton Chapman, along with Cleveland Principal Jo Ann Wadkins and IB Coordinator Jennifer Wiadnt (Cleveland is the other IB school in Portland Public Schools), to determine whether they thought testing in-person would be feasible.

Bliss explained that this decision required them to either go “all-in” or “all-out.” 

“We were even thinking [of a] hybrid model,” Bliss said, but “[for] some [students] who potentially have compromised immune systems, or are living with people who are high-risk, putting them in that position would have forced them to pretty much opt out of the exams right at that point.” 

Bliss also explained that they reflected deeply on the well-being of students. 

 “I felt like anything that we could do to create a little clarity and certainty in an already incredibly uncertain year was the right thing to do for students’ mental and social and emotional health,” he said.

Senior Sofia Jayaswal was thankful for this decision and feels relieved that she won’t have to worry about tests.

“I think the biggest advantage with the non-testing route is that it takes stress off of students in an already stressful school year. I know it was a stressor for me as well as a lot of my peers,” Jayaswal said. 

Bliss also assured that even with schools moving to a hybrid or Limited In-Person Instruction (LIPI) model, as Portland Public Schools is currently planning, the non-exam decision will not change. 

“You can be confident that this is the route that we’re going to take, and even though there’s all of this chatter, I know that must feel […] anxiety-inducing,” Bliss said. “We’re locked into this model. It’s not going to change.” 

IB English teacher Emily Hensley sees both advantages and disadvantages with the non-exam route. She acknowledged that sitting for in-person, on-demand exams has its merits.

“For some students, they will really thrive on that pressure, doing something on-demand and having a set amount of time for it,” she said. 

Hensley also sees the non-exam route as a more accurate, fair reflection of the work Lincoln students have done this year.

“We’re able to look at them with a more holistic approach and look at the work they have produced and the skills they have been demonstrating over their career as an IB student in our subject area, rather than having their score be based on three distinct assessments,” she said.

She is also excited to have more time to teach the rest of the year, as this class time would have traditionally been spent preparing for the exams. 

“Because we’re not sitting for exams, I think that we do have a little more flexibility in terms of what the end of the year looks like, in a way that I’m really excited about it,” Hensley said. 

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