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Students shouldn’t take PARCC exams because of lack of information - Ocean City Sentinel: Student Journalism

OPINION Students shouldn’t take PARCC exams because of lack of information

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Posted: Wednesday, March 23, 2016 2:17 pm

OCEAN CITY – As per the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers’ (PARCC) website, “High-quality assessments measure what students know and can do efficiently, and then allow teachers to adjust instruction accordingly, making the best use of classroom time.” 

The students, and most likely the teachers at Ocean City High School, seem to have at least a few major qualms about this statement, and the Partnership’s upcoming series of assessments. This article could possibly be more informative if the OCHS website provided information about these tests, but no mention of the PARCC test appears on the school calendar, the Latest News tab, the Principal’s newsletter, not even the Guidance page. Further, the few teachers contacted for this article had extremely few words on the matter. One teacher, who will remain anonymous, said they had no knowledge of what the specific schedule would be for the tests. When questioned about her opinion of the tests, she declined to answer. The teacher explained that during last year’s test, students were opposed to it and didn’t take it seriously. They received an e-mail from administration telling the staff to not spread any opinion, especially any of negative nature. Another teacher asked for an opinion of the PARCC, responded with indignant diplomacy, indicating that they are not allowed to provide any opinion about the PARCC tests.

An OCHS senior who attended a Board of Education meeting earlier this month reported about the PARCC administrator who gave a presentation about the test there. When a board member asked why the test completion rate for New Jersey’s 11th graders was significantly lower, the presenter circumvented the question, saying he didn’t have all the data and would provide more details later. The student rolled his eyes and smirked, “I know why [the rate is lower.] It wasn’t the numbers.”

Unofficial observations show that this crackdown on PARCC badmouthing stems from last year’s low test completion and participation rates. Most juniors claim to have “opted out” of last year’s tests, which took place in two two-week rounds, because they thought it was a waste of time and energy, and did not support its interference with their classes. Despite a majority of students not participating, the computers were unavailable during those times, which caused many classes to shift around their curriculum by initiating projects earlier or compromising the the material to compensate for students’ absence from class.

It is true that at least the rumors about the PARCC’s administration this year are much more sound. Students will not be removed sporadically from class, but rather will spend one half of the day testing, and have their morning classes that afternoon. The next day, tests will again be taken in the morning by a different set of students, and the afternoon classes will take place that afternoon. This, however, is still just a murky word-of-mouth relay by the aforementioned OCHS senior. Even the teachers are in the dark about the schedule. One teacher, though not knowing the full schedule for the PARCC administration, agreed that the test would take away from class time. It would also interfere with her class evaluations, teaching pace, and curricula schedule, she said.

It is important to reiterate that relevant information is currently not available on the high school web site, and as of this time teachers have received little information.

This year, students are hesitant about opting out, since there is no clear answer about whether or not the test’s completion is a graduation requirement. The school has been intentionally evasive in these matters for unknown reasons. To set the record straight, as of March 2016, the State of New Jersey Department of Education writes:

“With the transition to PARCC last year, the Department of Education has continually explained that students graduating as members of the classes of 2016 through 2019 [current senior through current freshman] can meet graduation requirements through a variety of ways, including (1) achieving passing scores on certain PARCC assessments; (2) achieving certain scores on alternative assessments such as the SAT, ACT, or Accuplacer; or (3) the submission by the district of a student portfolio through the Department’s portfolio appeals process.”

As a strong opponent of administrative ambiguity and manipulative silencing, I urge OCHS students to not participate in the upcoming PARCC. It is true that it is the state’s decision to put the PARCC in place, but it currently does not serve its purpose mentioned above, to “measure what students know and can do efficiently, and then allow teachers to adjust instruction accordingly, making the best use of classroom time.” 

All students already take the PSAT, and a vast majority also participate in the SAT, ACT, AP exams, internally-run final exams and quarterly benchmark exams. There are no more benchmarks needed. If the administration is seeking a better use of class time, it shouldn’t disrupt it with unnecessary standardized tests. Students should not support tests about which they receive no information. It is a mockery of our “individualized” education system and the student body’s autonomy.

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