Letter from the Editor

Hyojin Lee '16, Copy Editor

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The PARCC test is currently the trendy thing to complain about. Parents, teachers, and students all thoroughly enjoy reviling the latest assessment for New Jersey and the other PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) states.

I originally, in ignorance, thought that much of the fuss came from our tendency as humans to gripe over change, and that people were more influenced by the bandwagon effect than by these inconvenient assessments. However, after investigating what these tests will entail, I do believe that they will not help students in the way that the Partnership truly wants them to.

The education crisis in America is a common enough topic. Assessments such as the PARCC tests are often necessary to gauge where a state lies in teaching efficiency, ability, and proficiency. What is not necessary, though, is taking these gauges at the expense of student learning. Among the juniors, the most commonly expressed sentiment over the PARCC tests was despondency over the loss of instruction time. Countless juniors (myself included) have expressed genuine concern – even fear – over what may happen if teachers cannot cram everything in before the crucial AP exam period in May.

The altered schedule of three days of testing in March and two days in April does indeed help, but it still eats away at instruction time – especially when the school year itself is relatively short. These testing days will give non-testing students – seniors especially – a long weekend from their teachers in which they are not engaged in their usual productive activities.

There is also the question of material. The PARCC test assesses math skills in Algebra and Geometry as well as language arts skills for all students (except seniors). Officially, the purpose is to use these tests to compare student ability across the nation. In reality, only twelve states and the District of Columbia will administer these tests. Additionally, we already have standardized testing that all students take: the SAT and/or the ACT.

I understand the need for testing. Assessing one’s skills and limitations is crucial to improve, and improvement is certainly something that American public schools need. However, there are ways to work with standardized testing in this district that go beyond simply following policy. The school year could begin radically sooner – in August, perhaps, with the majority of the nation. This additional time – and the subsequently earlier release in June – would add valuable instruction time before the AP tests and detract from the often unnecessary instruction time afterwards.

Principal Howlett did acknowledge in an interview that many parents and students are concerned about this test. However, the general feeling is that the PARCC test is a mandate from higher up. He states, “I think that the intention of the test is to improve instruction, and I understand that. I think that it won’t have the impact in our district that it will have in others.”

He went on to say that the school administration is not allowed to view the test ahead of time, and that he also has a few qualms about technology. According to the principal, “It’s a concern, because it is new. We didn’t do [testing] to the extent last year that we will [this year]. We could have 1000 students testing at one time.”

This test is an entirely unfamiliar process to all staff – one that could be a hefty burden to implement.

I would like to think that when a simple acronym inspires the most brutal vitriol, something more can be done to fix the situation. When a test is called insensible by dozens of parents and teachers, perhaps the New Jersey government should alter it. And maybe, when students come home saying that they wasted their day testing, the state will take notice, and carry out its duties a little differently.

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