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Friday, April 10, 2015

PARCC or MCAS?

From where I sit as a fifth grade elementary school teacher in Massachusetts, I would rather see us go forward with PARCC then back to MCAS. I cannot speak for educators at Middle or High School.

My support comes with caution however as I hope that we will streamline the number of tests by giving students only 2-4 tests rather than 8.

Also, since one company is administering these tests to millions of children, the checks have to be great to make sure that the data collected and tests administered are providing us with useful, streamlined information, and that one company does not take advantage of this.

This is why I would choose PARCC rather than MCAS as well as some ideas for improvement:
  • Hopefully PARCC will move all students in Massachusetts towards one-to-one computer use with facile infrastructures in every community so student tech use is available anywhere, anytime.
  • Hopefully, since PARCC is online, data will be reported readily so we can use the results to inform instruction in useful ways.
  • PARCC was fairly easy to administer online once we got used to the pattern. 
  • I'm a fan of the CCSS as a set of foundation standards for learning and teaching. I like the way that local systems can fit the learning/teaching to both the CCSS and local context and needs. 
  • Since "knowledge begets knowledge" I think a common set of deep standards will help to give every child a solid learning foundation, yet I do know that the CCSS and PARCC are only one small fraction of the overall teaching/learning program and the money/time for these endeavors should match the result--there are many more important aspects to positive school culture and students' successful learning and experiences to consider as we think of a positive holistic education for every child
  • We've already devoted lots of time and money to PARCC, it's too early to turn back.
  • My students and I benefit from the national exchange that occurs with regard to CCSS and PARCC. I am learning more as an educator and I am learning with educators throughout the country.
  • I would like to see PARCC tests move toward a test-at-your-level format rather than grade-level tests. Tests like these would level up as students level up rather than expecting all students of the same age to perform similarly.
  • I would also like to see an alternate portfolio system for students who cannot (or possibly don't want to) take a standardized test. MCAS had this. 
  • Streamline the test schedule so that it does not interrupt the typical learning and teaching during the school year. Lessen the number of tests and give them once at mid-year and once at the end of the year. Too many tests take up too much time and too many resources which greatly impacts the routine and learning schedule for young children. This year the  PBA and EOY are too closely scheduled.
  • Lessen the number of tests, and give every child a computer. Perhaps by cutting the tests in half, we'll have the money for a computer for every child. 
While I support PARCC, I am cautious too. I am cautious because I don't want our schools to become test factories and dull learning organizations. These tests have to be streamlined with regard to the effort, time, and the people it takes to test well.

I realize that soon educators and other citizens will have the chance to speak up in favor of PARCC or MCAS at a number of scheduled forums. You can follow this discussion on the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Twitter site. 

I certainly don't have all the answers or all perspectives, but from where I sit, I say let's go ahead with PARCC, but let's advocate for better, streamlined administration and use of these tests. 

Addition:
This post summarizes my thoughts on standardized tests