Students, teachers find fault with PARCC test

Matt Bower
Posted 3/31/15

Two weeks ago, students in grades 3 through 10 began taking the Partnership for Assessment and Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test on March 16, and while many feared there would be issues …

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Students, teachers find fault with PARCC test


Two weeks ago, students in grades 3 through 10 began taking the Partnership for Assessment and Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test on March 16, and while many feared there would be issues with the test, which is administered online and taken on computers, administrators reported things got off to a smooth start, save for a few minor glitches.

However, students and teachers are singing a different tune, as evidenced by remarks made during the public comment portion of the School Committee meeting on March 18.

Speaking first was Toll Gate student Nathan Cornell, who said he was speaking on behalf of all students.

“The PARCC test is flawed and is not in the best interest of students,” he said. “There are not enough computers for students, and some of the ones we do have are outdated and have crashed.”

Cornell continued, saying the test is too difficult on students.

“We ask that the test does not go on in the future and that you encourage students to opt out of taking it,” he said, before presenting the School Committee with copies of a petition he said was signed by more than 300 students.

Speaking next was Toll Gate English teacher and department head Darlene Netcoh, who said teachers are running into scheduling issues with the PARCC test.

“We can’t do it like we did with NECAP [New England Common Assessment Program], which had students taking the test at the same time and we finished it in six days,” she said.

Netcoh said although PARCC has replaced the NECAP test when it comes to math and English, students must still take the NECAP science test, which will be administered in May along with another round of PARCC testing and STAR testing, a screening and assessment tool used to help teachers and administrators identify and understand student needs and performance levels.

“Math and English instruction has effectively ended because we have to set aside and spend time for test preparation and to do the tests,” she said.

Netcoh wrapped up her comments, saying teachers at the high school level did not receive adequate training to administer the PARCC test to students and said many states have dropped the PARCC test and Common Core standards.

Darilyn Gorton, a teacher at Gorton Junior High School, echoed Netcoh’s comments about not receiving adequate training.

“I am not comfortable administering the PARCC test. We have received six sets of updated directions, plus a 120-page manual and we are supposed to watch videos,” she said. “I have to sign an agreement saying I have knowledge to administer this and I have none.”

Gorton said she counted the number of days last year’s eighth-graders spent testing and it was 40 days out of the 180-day school year.

State legislators have heard the cries of those who oppose the PARCC test. Saying many parents feel PARCC takes time away from classroom work, Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) and Sen. Adam J. Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick) have introduced legislation (2015-H 5845 and 2015-S 0736) to allow parents and guardians of students in Rhode Island schools to opt out of the PARCC assessments. Students opting out would be assured their academic records would not be adversely affected for not participating.


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The title of this article is misleading. Much of the fault-finding has nothing to do with the test. per se, but rather the manner in which it is administered, computer glitches, training, etc. I guess I'll begin to pay close attention the first time I read: "Teachers, students, embrace new testing model". Literacy is a funny thing. As long as 78% of incoming freshmen at CCRI who attended a RI public high school continue to require remedial instruction, I'd suggest sticking with the 'hard' test.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The PARCC exam holds zero diagnostic value for students. Testing is not teaching. Losing 40 days of valuable instruction time to test prep, test practice, test administration will not advance a student's skill level. Perhaps those who are cramming this business interest down our throats should have demanded evidence that this was an effective teaching tool before spending our tax dollars on it. Clearly, but unsurprisingly, politics and greed replaced due diligence in the RIDE. The argument of "sticking with the 'hard' test" doesn't make sense to me. "Hard" tests don't teach concepts. More time being taught, less time being tested makes sense though. And I'd be interested to see the data of 70% of ccri freshmen enrolled in remedial math. Where are the statistics for the students capable of stronger math skills who leave high school and go on to other colleges and universities or military academies? I would just like to see objective evidence that our schools are in the dire state that the USDOE claim they are. And as a tax payer, I want evidence that this very flawed, made-up-as-it-goes, for-profit testing deal will make every student proficient before then end of 12th grade, as was promised. Where has this EVER happened?

Wake up, people. You're tax dollars aren't the only thing being wasted here. Your children's education, creativity, and individual strengths are too.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The first comment is not correct. According to a 2010 survey, 73% of incoming freshman at CCRI needed at least one remedial course. Currently, I believe the percentage is 66% which is similar to MA and other states. This is not the case at either URI or RIC. The 2010 study also cited social promotion as a likely cause as districts were not providing needed supports to struggling students. Incidentally, this is exactly what many opponents of high stakes testing have been pointing out. Individual students are being held accountable yet there is no mechanism to hold districts accountable when they do not provide individual supports for struggling students.

Some parents of students who struggle academically feel the PARCC is the only way to show that the district has failed to support their child. For other parents of struggling students, taking the test only subjects their child to being labeled a failure when it's the district that has failed to support them. This is especially true for parents of students with disabilities, ELLs and many of our students in poverty who are not reading at grade level. For many of these kids it's a lose-lose situation. From the districts' perspective, it's extremely expensive to provide the individual supports needed to help the lowest performing students pass these tests. So, they provide global supports (although by law they are suppose to provide individual supports - hint - doesn't always happen). Until this changes, parents will protect their children in any way possible, including not subjecting them to a test on content that districts can't even guarantee they've had an opportunity to learn.

For parents of high performing students, they are frustrated that their children's education has been reduced to a one size fits all curriculum and endless test prep. Parents and teachers of younger students have found that the curriculum is developmentally inappropriate. Others believe that the over reliance on testing is harmful to their child's overall education. This is not a classroom test, end of course exam or diagnostic test that informs instruction. PARCC is a test that is suppose to measure how a school or district is performing that will be used for major decisions involving individuals.

Many in this state may belittle and criticize parents for opting their students out of the test. Many others will support them. Parents are not stupid. They will always do what is in the best interest of their children.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015