Dunellen District Administers PARCC By: Cora Myers

The Dunellen school district administered the PARCC throughout the month of April for all grade levels. Students at DHS took this state exam during the week of April 11th on chromebooks at school. There were no technical problems and the test ran smoothly. Throughout the weeks of PARCC, students tested for parts of the day and then continued on with a regular school day after hours of testing.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) has been highly controversial over the past two years. According to the PARCC website, “The PARCC is a group of states working together to develop a set of assessments that measure whether students are on track to be successful in college and their careers. These high quality K–12 assessments in Mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy give teachers, schools, students, and parents better information whether students are on track in their learning and for success after high school, and tools to help teachers customize learning to meet student needs.” PARCC states this but some people disagree. Students feel that the test is not an accurate measure of their knowledge, as many questions were ambiguous. Just a few weeks ago, PARCC was taken for the second year at DHS. Only this time students were told that it counted towards graduation.

The test samples for high school are very complex and all answers are considered plausible. So any of the answer choices could be considered correct with some form of thought. The different sections of PARCC made it difficult to tell how well students did. “I found the questions for English slightly easier than I did for Math. I found the English part easier but the math section stayed about the same for me,” says Julia Duggan, Sophomore at DHS. “The English sections of the test were easier than last year, due to the fact that PARCC reviewed the questions after last year’s attempt at taking it. But the math questions didn’t seem to be improved.” adds another sophomore.

Testing was done early in the morning or in the afternoon, and the students had to continue on with a regular school day. Instead of having the schedule for the week set up like mid­terms and finals weeks. “My brain was exhausted so I felt that going through a full day of school was uncalled for. Most of the teachers did not teach any new material. I was confused why the students had to go through a full day if no new material was taught,” says another sophomore at DHS. The students had to continue on with a normal day of school after PARCC testing for 2­3 hours every day of the week.

“However, on these tests, such item formats are pressed into a kind of service for which they are, generally, not appropriate. They are used to test “higher­ order thinking.” The test questions therefore tend to be tricky and convoluted.” states Diane Ravitch on her blog. The questions for most on the English sections were easier than the math sections, and easier than last year as well. “I feel I did better on the English sections because English has always been a stronger subject for me than math,” adds Sophomore, Julia Duggan.

High-school students are grumbling that the tests are poorly written and don’t match their schools’ curricula. “I feel like I wasn’t prepared for the test, we had no idea what was going to be on it. I got plenty of sleep the night before, but the math PARCC questions weren’t taught to us yet. I didn’t understand most of them, as they were above my understanding and lessons. Some people even said it was college level math questions we were asked,” says a sophomore at DHS. There were over 50,000 refusals last year for the first PARCC test. In an article by Mark Weber he states that, “Given what I’ve heard from parents and students, that number is likely to grow during next month’s testing cycle. Parents are complaining that the sample questions they’ve reviewed are confusing and age inappropriate. In reality, we have little idea if PARCC is a more reliable assessment or if it predicts real­life outcomes better than any other standardized test. Even the PARCC consortium, in a white paper found on its own website, admits that it doesn’t know if test results vary with the quality of instruction students receive.”

There were only a few students who opted out of taking the test. Many felt the need to take it because it is required for graduation. As for the future of PARCC, it seems to be in place for every year and count towards graduation in the New Jersey high schools.

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