This month our state’s PARCC results are being released, and with them, a flurry of public debate will ensue about whether or not we should move forward with the system we currently have in place, or rather, as both candidates running for governor have stated, scrap it for something different.
As a mother and a teacher, I deeply believe we should stay the course. The value of searching for something different, given that it will likely be very similar to what we have, is far outweighed by my desire to have consistency in our education system. As a 19-year veteran teacher and a mother of three, who have all weathered the so-called standardized testing “storm,” I can speak to the validity of what works best in my classroom and how the college-and-career ready standards accompanied by PARCC have helped my children achieve as learners.
In my classroom, I value having high-quality assessment results for my students to help prepare lessons and instructional practices. Because I work hard to align my instruction to our state standards and know the assessment will assess these measures, I am empowered to give my students relevant and useful instruction that will impact their future. I already know the argument to this point; doesn’t this mean I am merely teaching to the test? This statement always bothers me. It implies that I’m not capable of creating learning that is innovative and inspiring while still being relevant and timely. Having a measure to monitor my instruction and student learning is vitally important to maintaining a learning environment that is both structured and sequenced to the grades above and below me.
When I assign an essay or project in my classroom, I provide a grading rubric that allows my students to understand the intended objectives of the assignment and my expectations. I view the standards, and the aligned assessment, in this exact same way – as a rubric for my students learning. If they know and master these objectives, they will find success as they move from grade to grade. Is it easy? No. Not at all. It takes hours of studying to prepare my units, but my students deserve it. So does my profession.
As a parent, watching my two younger children navigate the PARCC for the last four years has been interesting and exciting. My kids are fortunate to attend a school where high expectations and rigor are part of their day-to-day journey as students. Additionally, in my community data is viewed as a tool to better inform students, teachers and parents alike about strengths and weaknesses so that measurable goals can be set and achieved. My youngest child has worked diligently from the first PARCC administration in 2015, when she earned a performance score of 3, toward her own personal goal of a 5.
I can proudly say that she reached that score this year after dedicated commitment to the effort. As her mother, I am proud of the perseverance and grit she displayed in striving for this personal achievement. Working toward this success will serve her well as she moves into college and then her career.
As her mom, it is comforting to know she has learned to productively struggle through the “hard part” in her learning journey.
Having to re-adjust, re-learn and re-train around a new assessment system will not only slow the progress our students are making statewide, it will cause increased stress and frustration for teachers and districts. It will cost more money and time our current students cannot afford to sacrifice.
From my view, there is nothing significant to gain from uprooting our system, again. And, based on my nearly 20 years of experience, a new test won’t be that much different than what we have in place right now. So, let’s get back to the real work of improving instruction and supporting students. That’s where we should be spending time and energy.