Watching The PARCC Train Wreck

Annie Galvin Teich-200Fairly or unfairly, the PARCC tests have become the poster child for every perceived evil of the Common Core standards and standardized testing.

24 states originally committed to PARCC testing as part of the implementation of Common Core. Politicians and Common Core opponents have been largely successful in pushing back against the standards and testing while reframing the Common Core and PARCC as federally imposed mandates.

The majority of recently announced Republicans running for U.S. president oppose Common Core and PARCC – even those like Bobby Jindall and Chris Christie who were early supporters.

As the tests have rolled out this spring many of the 10 PARCC states left standing are either challenging the tests or withdrawing. In just the last 30 days, as states have been conducting their second round of tests this spring, a growing storm of frustrated students, teachers, and parents have been lobbying for repeal.

Of the ten remaining PARCC states:

  • The Colorado department of education is allowing schools to opt out of PARCC testing. As a result, opt-outs are exploding with a suburban Denver district averaging 43% students opting out.
  • Chris Christie has booted out the Common Core standards in New Jersey but said this week that he is in favor of keeping PARCC although that doesn’t make a lot of sense as PARCC is designed to test Common Core standards.
  • Missouri withdrew from PARCC last week.
  • In Worcester, Massachusetts, the teachers’ union wants to temporarily halt all high-stakes testing.
  • The Ohio legislature recently voted to eliminate PARCC and reduce the hours of annual testing to three/year.
  • Several of the states were PARCC is still on the schedule for 2016, as in New Jersey, will be decreasing the testing frequency from two times (March and May) to one time in late spring.

The Baltimore Sun reports that Maryland and 10 other states have voted to reduce testing next year. The testing time for elementary and middle school students will decrease by 90 minutes. 10th graders will still take an English and Algebra exam, but the testing time will decrease from 11.1 hours to 9.7 hours.

The PARCC state required tests are only part of the testing picture. To be fair, most of the parent and teacher reaction is to standardized testing in general and not just PARCC.

Parents and teachers object to the marathon testing. Because most schools do not have a computer for every student, testing takes weeks, and prevents other activity on school computers while testing takes place. The stress and pressure of the high-stakes exams puts educators, students, and families on edge for weeks at a time.

There are legitimate questions about the design and administration of the PARCC tests that are being lost in the cacophony of protest against the role of standardized testing in today’s schools. The role of these tests as well as their use in evaluating student and teacher performance are important questions that need our best thinking. But as politicians and others run for cover on Common Core and PARCC testing, finding the best way to evaluate student learning is getting short shrift.