By Madison Jurek
The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), a standardized test, currently in 6 states, will be phased out in Maryland by the 2019-2020 school year. At Arundel, students, teachers, and administrators have reacted to the planned change with mixed emotions. While many are happy to see the day PARCC is replaced, others have expressed skepticism regarding whether the change will bring improvement.
PARCC is formally defined as 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 careers. According to PARCC’s official website, PARCC exams are currently “end of course” or end of year exams. PARCC is given from grades 3-8, as well as in high school. PARCC tests students’ skills in English Language Arts and Math.
For high school students, the test is normally given or required after they complete most of algebra 1, geometry, or algebra 2 for math, and are in a 9th, 10th, or 11th grade English course. PARCC became a part of many states’ curriculum, starting in 2010. According to PARCC’s official website, PARCC switched to a “single end of year administration” in 2016. As of 2017, PARCC’s Board selected “New Meridian Corporation” to help with the content and model for the next phase of PARCC testing.
States have dialed back on the use of PARCC in their administrations. According to a February 15, 2017 article on EdWeek.org, in 2014, there were 14 states using PARCC. As of the 2016-2017 school year, only 6 states remain on the list of those actively using PARCC testing. Maryland will now be following suit, leaving PARCC behind in pursuit of a new standardized test, impacting Arundel High School’s calendar and population.
Administrators at Arundel say that while they know testing takes a lot of time in the school calendar, it remains required within the current curriculum and school system. On the topic of general standardized testing, Mr. Bell, an assistant principal, simply said, “It’s a requirement.” He explained that it is mandated by the state, which is why, “we kind of have to deal with it.”
On whether PARCC’s replacement will help or hurt students, Bell said he didn’t know, and that while he has seen the test, he doesn’t, “know what the difference is going to be between PARCC and the new test.” While he isn’t sure of the exact differences between the replacement test and PARCC, he said the new test is supposed to be shorter, which he sees as a positive change. Though Bell hopes to see the new test create a beneficial impact, he wishes there was less testing for students, teachers, and administrators alike.
Arundel teachers say their ability to manage time and energy amidst a packed calendar has been a challenge. Current PARCC testing impacts the school system by taking up more than two weeks of the school calendar, including days necessary for makeup testing days. “That week or two of testing has grown into a month where it’s like AP tests, HSA, PARCC, and before you know it, teachers are burnt out on testing,” Mr. Wray, an AP Psychology and Computer Science teacher at Arundel, said.
Though some teachers say they dislike the amount of time standardized testing takes, most teachers, like Ms. Stephanos, agreed that it can provide important information and is still effective for monitoring student progress. “PARCC takes up a lot of time, we as a system get it. We know what the expectations are, we know how to move forward and make improvements, and now we’re going to have to start that process all over again,” she said. Wray and other teachers say they, “can’t see how replacing [PARCC] would hurt students,” and that “[PARCC] hasn’t been implemented well, putting emphasis on testing instead of classroom learning.” He says that while he doesn’t like standardized testing, he still likes the idea of testing because it holds, “people accountable for learning–not just students, but teachers [as well].”
As for how teachers at Arundel wish to improve testing, the answers vary. Some teachers wish to see more variety in the actual tests given to students. “If they didn’t make tests just multiple choice or just writing, maybe making some sort of simulation… that would be better,” Wray said. Other suggestions included that PARCC, “would be better replaced with a test at the end of the year, [as] more of a dipstick measure of ‘did they learn what they needed to learn through the year, instead of a ‘use this to improve,’” test. Stephanos said that because she thinks it’s, “important to [still] have benchmarks, [she] really [likes] the idea of putting the control back into the local school systems for monitoring students’ progress,” as opposed to state or national testing. While many teachers at Arundel have varying opinions on PARCC and how it should change, most say they agree it shouldn’t be a “one size fits all” process within the school system.
Students have reacted primarily with annoyance to the news about the state shifting away from PARCC. Some students at Arundel say they don’t understand the purpose of changing PARCC to another standardized test. Kiara Bryson, a senior at Arundel, asked, “What makes it so different?” The new test is currently in the process of being made and the actual changes from PARCC to the new standardized test have yet to be openly released. Some Arundel students say that they hope that the new test will be shorter and less stressful. Senior, Alyssa Kaiser, said she was, “all for a change. PARCC is just too long.”
For the 2018-2019 school year, testing is scheduled to take place between April 9th and May 18th on paper and between April 9th and June 8th for online testing. That means there is almost a three-month period where students, teachers, and administrators are completing PARCC testing. There is also hesitance in the air about whether changing PARCC will alter the process of how students in Maryland test and how it impacts them.
Junior, Alanna Washington, believes, “Even if we replaced [PARCC] with a different test, it would still probably be the same set up where we just sit there and do work for hours on end.” As for standardized testing in general, the consensus from students at Arundel seems to be that it doesn’t help so much as it causes stress and annoyance. “Standardized tests are kind of stupid in general. It makes you memorize things and never actually learn anything,” Washington said.
Some see changing PARCC as a promising sign that testing season will be less stressful and time consuming in the future. Many students taking PARCC also face the challenge and commitment of taking AP tests, the HSA, the SAT, the ACT, and other various standardized tests, all within the same time frame. Some students expressed concerns about the testing schedule placing increased stress on students, affecting their health and ability to perform well. Tayabah Cheema, a senior, agreed, saying that PARCC testing, “is just really stressful, and it shouldn’t be.”
For graduating seniors, the pattern of PARCC will end with them, or has possibly already ended in their earlier years of high school. Senior Macray Murray said, “I think [replacing it] is good for the Freshmen, but for the kids who already had to take the PARCC it doesn’t really help. I’m a senior and I’m never going to have to take PARCC again.”