NEW JERSEY -- School districts in New Jersey, including the Scotch Plains-Fanwood school district, have no choice but to administer standardized testing. However, the new PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) exam, administered online, has proven controversial.
The PARCC exam measures students' knowledge of Common Core
state standards and its goal is to measure teacher performance. Parents across the state have vocalized the opposition to the standardized test. Meanwhile, NJ Department of Education Commissioner David Hespe is asking parents to reserve judgment until after the test is actually administered this spring.
The assessments are aligned with the rigorous Common Core standards that try to ensure that every child is on a path to college and career readiness by measuring what students should know at each grade level.
Advocates for PARCC say the test measures accurately what students need in math and literacy in order to be ready for college and view the exam as a tool that is aligned with what we expect teachers to teach in classrooms. Students who would like to take practice tests in advance are able to do it online at http://parcconline.org/take-the-test
Here is a sample 7th grade question:
In paragraph 6 of “The Biography of Amelia Earhart,” Earhart is quoted as saying “After scaring most of the cows in the neighborhood…I pulled up in a farmer’s back yard.” How does the quotation contribute to the meaning of the paragraph?
It demonstrates Earhart’s sense of humor when describing a potentially frightening situation.*
It shows that Earhart loved taking risks but regretted when her actions put others in danger.
It suggests that Earhart was humble about her accomplishments and able to admit serious mistakes.
It illustrates Earhart’s awareness of her responsibility as a role model for other women.
"Each of the answers is true, which makes it more difficult to pick the right anwer, and if you get part A of a question wrong, you won't get part B right either," said one local teacher who preferred anonymity. "The test is hard, there's no doubt about it. The scores will drop from what students scored last year under NJ ASK."
"Preparing students for the exam takes a lot of class time. It takes teaching creativity out, how the teacher connects with kids," the teacher added. "We've had to teach typing because it is an exam done on a computer. Typing was removed from the schools a few years ago. Now it's back."
"I'm not against the PARCC. Good students will do well, and the poor students are going to struggle," the teacher said. "The kids feel threatened knowing that there will be this big assessment on how you do. What happens is that they become less willing to participate in class and take risks when they feel uneasy. They will participate more when they feel secure, and the looming test makes kids nervous."
"I took the fourth grade practice test and found both the concepts and the logistics to be really complex. Dragging and dropping text while scrolling - while remembering what the question was in the first place - wow, that was hard." said Susan Bonnell, the mother of two boys. "I think the logistics alone are going to trip up a lot of kids."
Recently, Gail Switsky wrote a TAP into SPF letter to the editor
about the PARCC exam and radio station New Jersey 101.5 FM hosted a discussion on the pros and cons of the PARCC test. You can listen to the program here: