Two weeks ago, students in grades 3 through 10 began taking the Partnership for Assessment and Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test on March 16, and while many feared there would be issues with the test, which is administered online and taken on computers, administrators reported things got off to a smooth start, save for a few minor glitches.
However, students and teachers are singing a different tune, as evidenced by remarks made during the public comment portion of the School Committee meeting on March 18.
Speaking first was Toll Gate student Nathan Cornell, who said he was speaking on behalf of all students.
“The PARCC test is flawed and is not in the best interest of students,” he said. “There are not enough computers for students, and some of the ones we do have are outdated and have crashed.”
Cornell continued, saying the test is too difficult on students.
“We ask that the test does not go on in the future and that you encourage students to opt out of taking it,” he said, before presenting the School Committee with copies of a petition he said was signed by more than 300 students.
Speaking next was Toll Gate English teacher and department head Darlene Netcoh, who said teachers are running into scheduling issues with the PARCC test.
“We can’t do it like we did with NECAP [New England Common Assessment Program], which had students taking the test at the same time and we finished it in six days,” she said.
Netcoh said although PARCC has replaced the NECAP test when it comes to math and English, students must still take the NECAP science test, which will be administered in May along with another round of PARCC testing and STAR testing, a screening and assessment tool used to help teachers and administrators identify and understand student needs and performance levels.
“Math and English instruction has effectively ended because we have to set aside and spend time for test preparation and to do the tests,” she said.
Netcoh wrapped up her comments, saying teachers at the high school level did not receive adequate training to administer the PARCC test to students and said many states have dropped the PARCC test and Common Core standards.
Darilyn Gorton, a teacher at Gorton Junior High School, echoed Netcoh’s comments about not receiving adequate training.
“I am not comfortable administering the PARCC test. We have received six sets of updated directions, plus a 120-page manual and we are supposed to watch videos,” she said. “I have to sign an agreement saying I have knowledge to administer this and I have none.”
Gorton said she counted the number of days last year’s eighth-graders spent testing and it was 40 days out of the 180-day school year.
State legislators have heard the cries of those who oppose the PARCC test. Saying many parents feel PARCC takes time away from classroom work, Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) and Sen. Adam J. Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick) have introduced legislation (2015-H 5845 and 2015-S 0736) to allow parents and guardians of students in Rhode Island schools to opt out of the PARCC assessments. Students opting out would be assured their academic records would not be adversely affected for not participating.