WPS task force implements test return policy

WHS+implements+a+new+test+return+policy.+The+new+policy+requires+all+tests%2C+besides+midterms%2C+finals+and+advanced+placement+material%2C+to+be+returned+to+students.+

Credit: Alyssa Ao

WHS implements a new test return policy. The new policy requires all tests, besides midterms, finals and advanced placement material, to be returned to students.

WSPN Staff

At the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, Wayland Superintendent Omar Easy announced the implementation of a new test return policy at Wayland Public Schools. The new test return policy will require all tests, with the exception of midterms, finals and Advanced Placement material, to be returned to students and be available for conference at any time after the test is taken.

In the past, the majority of tests given to Wayland High School students, especially within the math and science department, were returned to students in class, but they were taken back and stored at WHS after students briefly reviewed their tests. Now, due to the new test return policy, teachers have to make all test material available to be brought home by students.

“Futuristically, students will get [to take] their exams [home],” Easy said. “We are working with the biology department because biology is a different subject in the sense that it’s fact based. [It involves] memorization and certain content doesn’t change, and we want to give some time for [compromise, so that] the biology team can work on different assessments that can go home to students.”

The test return policy has been a debate among the Wayland community for over 10 years, spanning four superintendents. When Easy was elected as superintendent, he decided to make it a goal to put an end to the debate surrounding student assessment return.

The issue was further debated through a task force committee on student assessment, which began in December of 2021. The committee, led by Director of Teaching, Learning, Assessment and EL Michelle Crowell, consisted of student volunteers, Wayland parents, Wayland teachers and other Wayland community members. They met a total of eight times, and their task was to come to a consensus on the student assessment policy, and they wanted to create a recommendation to present to the Wayland school committee.

“[My job was] to guide discussions regarding best practices in the math and science departments,” Crowell said. “I developed agendas based on our discussions [to] hear everybody’s perspective, [which gave] time for departments to [clear up] misconceptions about what was happening. I was also always looking for feedback and thoughts from committee members.”

I think it is a problem that the issues that are important to students are sometimes placed on the backburner, while the issues that are really important to parents are put front and center.”

— Prash Subbiah

The task force covered a variety of perspectives on the test return policy, and had multiple, in-depth conversations about the practicality of returning tests to students. In the end, the most important thing to the committee leaders was that consensus was reached.

“At the end of the day, [the task force] had to find consensus in terms of the recommendation made to me,” Easy said. “[I then had] to make a decision to reflect equal opportunities and what’s best for students.”

However, some committee members believed that reaching consensus and representing all perspectives was difficult because of the vast amount of opinions represented on the committee.

“It was very clear from the beginning that there was never going to be any consensus,” senior and committee member Prash Subbiah said. “[There were] parents who were extremely passionate about [returning tests to students], and then there were teachers on the other hand [who had opposing opinions]. We were told that recommendations were going to be made from a consensus, and, unsurprisingly, there was no consensus on the task force.”

Some members of the task force also believed that student and teacher opinions were not greatly considered during task force meetings, and rather, the parents’ opinions were the center of the conversations.

“I think teachers, and particularly administration, really do care about what the students think,” Subbiah said. “At the district level, it’s a little bit different. Sometimes parents can hold undue sway, and the issues that are really important to parents, but maybe not so important to students, can get prioritized. I think it is a problem that the issues that are important to students are sometimes placed on the backburner, while the issues that are really important to parents are put front and center.”

Despite the debates around the definition of consensus, the ultimate goal of the task force committee was to create a final report to present to the WPS School Committee. The final report had to be based on the mutual consensus found during task force meetings, and would provide a recommendation for the next steps in terms of the Wayland test return policy.

“The hardest part was coming up with the framework [of the report], because during the task force meetings, there was so much that was discussed,” Crowell said. “I needed to capture as much of the themes and feedback that the task force presented during meetings in the final report.”

After Crowell drafted the report, she shared the draft with the task force members and asked for feedback. She then took the feedback from the task force members and created the final draft. The final draft was not shared with task force members before being presented to the School Committee, which was concerning to some task force members. However, Crowell assured that the final report combined all task force members’ opinions as well as it could.

“Of course, not everything is captured, but the major themes from all perspectives [were],” Crowell said. “It was a difficult document to create, because [I] needed to make sure that everybody’s voice was captured in this one document. At the end of the day, we needed to create a report [with committee members’ suggestions] to hand to Easy to review.”

Now that WHS teachers are working towards implementing the policy full-time, there are adjustments to testing policies that need to be made. For some teachers, this process has been challenging, tedious and time consuming.

“[WHS teachers] want to find new ways to see what students know, and there are a range of different assessment tools and practices that teachers are already using,” Mizoguchi said. “It’s not just tests that teachers are using to assess their students. Moving forward, it’s going to be about being responsive and receptive, as always, to what students understand about the material based on how they’re being assessed. The fact that the assessments will go home now does raise questions around if teachers are going to be able to know what students know, and that will create new opportunities for us to think about assessing students differently.”

Although this will be an adjustment for WHS teachers, WHS Principal Allyson Mizoguchi and Easy are confident that teachers will be able to adjust their testing policies for the benefit of the students.

“As the building administrators leader, [my responsibility is to] listen carefully to the concerns and questions of the teachers,” Mizoguchi said. “The shift is occurring. [I am trying to] find time and resources so that the teachers can make the shift in a way that is still going to guarantee a really exceptional experience for students.”

Some task force committee members shared concerns around the new test return policy providing an advantage to students who are able to afford and access tutors and creating an issue surrounding cheating.

“Test integrity is important, “ Easy said. “I do think [cheating happens], even before this policy was in place. But I think we have a lot more honest students that don’t have the desire to cheat, who spend more time preparing themselves for the exam as opposed to spending time trying to figure out how to cheat on exams.”

The decision to return to exams is absolutely, undoubtedly what’s best for kids. I really want folks to understand that this has been an ongoing conversation for a long time, and it’s time to move forward the right way.”

— Omar Easy

While cheating is a concern, Mizoguchi is certain that teachers will be able to deal with the concern around cheating in an effective way to make sure that all students have an equal learning opportunity.

“I’m confident that our teachers will figure out a way to get around [the concern of cheating],” Mizoguchi said. “It’s never been the belief of our teachers or the administrators that the default activity of students is to cheat. Cheating is a concern, but [the new policy] presents an opportunity for us to think things through and make adjustments to practices when the assessments are in the community.”

Ultimately, Easy believes that the new test return policy will prove to greatly benefit students’ learning. Easy believes that the ability for students to look through previous mistakes and the structure of previous tests will allow them to prepare better for future tests, and feel more confident in their abilities.

“My notion is that [the School Committee and I] are responsible for making decisions that are best for WPS kids,” Easy said. “The decision to return to exams is absolutely, undoubtedly what’s best for kids. This one topic has [been debated for] over 10 years. I really want folks to understand that this has been an ongoing conversation for a long time, and it’s time to move forward the right way.”