Thursday, August 04, 2016

Requiring the PARCC test

Having gone through it, I have seen the staggering amount of time, cost, and energy devoted to preparing for and administering this test and in carrying out the appeals process.  Has anyone measured whether there is any significant difference in the results of the HSPA and the PARCC, i.e. whether all this cost is justified?  If someone does do such an analysis, I would bet a large sum of money that there is no statistical difference in the outcome.  The amount of money spent on technological infrastructure to give the test is enormous, the time it takes to prepare and administer the test is equally large and the appeals process takes even more teacher and administrator time and cost.  If you added up all the direct and indirect costs, it would be equal to the pay of hundreds of teachers across the state.  Could this money be better spent reducing class size and increasing resources for struggling students?  Not to mention the incredible amount of time students are removed from learning to take these tests.  There are far cheaper and easier alternatives.  How about using the ACT test as the graduation test?  It could be done on weekends, not taking away from instruction, not using administrator and teacher time and the requirement of massive technological infrastructure and would allow every student in the state to have also completed the test needed for college admissions.  How about using the Accuplacer?  This would allow us to directly know who would need remedial college work, for that is what the test is designed for.  

The bigger question is why we need to move from a test of skills to a test of reasoning and what is the potential impact.  So much of student learning and development has nothing to do with what happens in school.  It has to do with early childhood development and ambient learning and the exposure and access to information and challenges in the home and community.  This money and dedication of resources would be much better spent on pre-school education, targeted diagnosis and enrichment for students in pre-K and elementary schools and on expanded and rich libraries, especially in urban communities.

But lets be honest here.  Psychometricians know that there will always be a bell curve and at one end of that curve are concrete thinkers who will have a tougher time with reasoning than skills.  These individuals have as much a right to a diploma as those who have stronger reasoning skills.  Many of those students may do data entry or become aides or barbers or house painters or landscapers or dishwashers.  These are honorable professions and are appropriate for some students.  But this move by the education department says that these hard working individuals who are able to demonstrate the skills to be successful in their chosen professions are unworthy of a high school diploma.  Are these students more likely to be students living in poverty, ESL students or students living in rural or urban areas?  

It is a virtual certainty that there is an almost complete correlation between income and success on the PARCC test.  We as a society can dedicate resources and implement policies to reduce poverty, provide enriching educational experiences for preschoolers in our urban and rural communities increase income redistribution and improve incentives for our best students to become teachers.  This would have the greatest impact on improving our student performance.  Or we can do none of these things to actually improve student performance and blame and harm the victims of our inaction.  You can make the decision on the connection between requiring the PARCC test and background of those who will have the most difficulty succeeding on it.  The answer is clear to me.

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