With such an unconventional and challenging school year coming to a close, the possibility of International Baccalaureate (IB) testing in May had been worrying the minds of the class of 2021. Last year, IB tests for the class of 2020 were cancelled suddenly due to COVID-19 restrictions. Instead, students’ ultimate IB grades were determined by their internal assessment (IA) scores as well as predicted test scores from their teachers. In the past, internal assessments were not all graded by IB, but rather a sample was collected from each school and grades were adjusted accordingly. This meant many students in the class of 2020 were unaware that their internal assessments would be submitted directly to IB until the COVID-19 pandemic altered in-person learning.
Fortunately, since the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, IB has defined that they would be collecting all internal assessments for the current IB testers. While the current seniors have been aware that their internal assessments would be weighed more heavily in their final IB score, there was still the concerning question–would IB still have May exams?
On February 11, Baltimore City College students learned that they would not have to take their IB exams this Spring. This came as a relief to many students and teachers, but soon quickly evolved back into stress as IA deadlines were approaching.
Felix Tower, a full IB senior describes that she was excited to hear that exams would be canceled: “I was relieved to know that I wouldn’t have to do a lot of studying in my last year of high school”.
Ms. Doernberger, an English teacher at City who teaches seniors, was in agreement with IB’s decision to cancel May exams, as having exams “wouldn’t be in students’ best interest”. Ms. Doernberger notes that despite the challenges many students face with virtual school and that in-person school is still “ideal”, teachers altered their courses to dedicate more time to IAs this year compared to previous years. In senior English classes, the Higher Level Essay (HLE) will be one of the main components of students’ IB scores this year. Ms. Doernberger notes that “Usually, we would spend one week editing HLEs; this year, we spent one month.”
Felix Tower also mentioned how grateful she was that teachers spent a substantial amount of time working on internal assessments this school year as they were “complicated projects” that would have been difficult to navigate independently. Although there was substantial and adequate support from teachers, Tower still notes that she felt rushed as it was not until recently that students learned how heavily their internal assessments would be weighed.
Despite City seniors and teacher’s long await, IB’s verdict to cancel May’s exams was a responsible decision that was made in the best interest in the health, safety, and wellbeing of teachers and students.