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Current use of PARCC testing can cause damage

Regarding the UpFront column, “PARCC test earns high marks,” the PARCC test may be a good product. However, even good products, when misused can cause damage.

The PARCC test in its current form causes damage and should not be used for the following reasons:

1. The test is expensive.

New Mexico spent nearly $12 million in contract fees to Pearson and technology upgrades for districts. The expense is much higher when factoring in the cost of testing coordinators, which for Albuquerque Public Schools came at an additional $7,000 per school.

This does not include additional hours spent in lost teaching time as teachers, administrators and support staffs navigate the logistics of the glitch-ridden computer based system.

2. The cost vs. benefits is questionable.

Teachers, parents and students do not see results of these tests for months. Therefore the tests are not useful for guiding instruction, making placement or program decisions or informing parents on student progress in a timely manner.

3. Currently the PARCC use as one of the data sources in the Value Added Model is harmful.

The model has come under scrutiny and a slew of policy analysts and respected research organizations have cautioned against its use.

Most recently, The American Educational Research Association, released a statement warning of the “potentially serious negative consequences” of using “value added” models to judge individual teachers or teacher-preparation programs.

Some negative ramifications have already come to pass.

Teacher morale is at an all time low. An injunction has been placed on using this model to evaluate teachers while a lawsuit is under way, creating more tension between the state, districts and teacher’s unions. We are facing a looming teacher shortage.

The inappropriate use of the PARCC test may actually cause student performance to drop.

4. Low-income, high minority schools are disproportionately impacted by these policies.

Socioeconomic status is a greater predictor of test score performance than any other single factor. Not only are there no incentives to work at high-need schools, it is dangerous to a teacher’s career to do so.

Increasingly, students in high-need schools are instructed by long-term substitutes and unlicensed teachers.

Some possible ways to solve these problems:

1. Ask test makers to support teachers in designing performance-based assessments that can be used to improve instruction and provide timely feedback to students and their parents.

2. Ask test makers to create reasonable assessments for accountability.

There is no plausible reason for a third-grader to sit through nine hours of testing when a statistically relevant survey test will provide the same accountability data in two hours. (The SAT, which is designed to measure a student’s entire learning career is only four hours long.)

3. Use the time and money spent on the PARCC test to invest in our teachers.

If we provide teachers with the time, tools and skills they need, as well as positive conditions in which to work, our students will be successful. This is a proven strategy applied by countries and states with high performing educational systems.

4. Create pathways for teacher and parent input into strategic plans for improving our schools.

Teachers need to learn to advocate for their own profession to receive the trust and compensation we deserve for the challenging job we do.

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