Welcome to my World [PARCC::Part I]

The Board has convened five Public Hearings on PARCC. I attended three (in Fitchburg, Lynn, and Springfield) and I'm in the process of reviewing public testimony from all of the hearings.

I appreciate that educators from schools and districts with first-hand experience of the Commonwealth's unique two-year testing trial shared their insights at these public hearings. From educator testimony the Board has heard, some concerns stand out for me, including:

  • developmental appropriateness of some ELA questions, especially in the 4th grade test;
  • the chaotic nature of administering a new test format [online] and challenges in scheduling the computer-based test;
  • appropriate accommodations, such as extended time for all students, including students in special education and ELL;
  • lack of equity with regard to technology in all buildings;
  • lack of planning time for districts [for funding and professional development]

In a PARCC Position Paper*, MASS Superintendents expressed their preference for an "...implementation process that is regarded as ongoing in nature with frequent opportunities for feedback regarding the success of our efforts..." and shared their thoughts about:

  • what constitutes a high quality assessment;
  • ensuring the new generation of assessment supports teaching and learning, paying particular attention to
    • frequency and timing
    • necessary conditions
    • logistical considerations
  • critical roll out 

Some members of the public noted that some parents and community members were unable to get to venues in time to sign-up for live testimony due to work and/or family schedules. Parents who were able to give live testimony noted:

  • excessive time for standardized test-taking;
  • a narrowed curriculum, especially in the days and weeks before testing days;
  • equity concerns between the paper-based test and the computer-based test;
  • questions about the validity of the new test
  • lack of clarity about what they wanted to know about the new test and what they would be responsible for if schools and classrooms shift to online learning and testing;  

I've taken several practice maths, finding it challenging at times to "drag and drop" parts of equations into the answer box, often located on a different part of the screen that is unseen when answering the problem. "Screen freeze" was frequent and work not "saved" when this occurred. These might be frustrating for some students (results of a student survey state that 32% of students found this to be true), but perhaps issues such as these could be ameliorated over time.

Questions I still have about the PARCC:
  • Is this the right test? Rather, is there such a thing as a "right" test?
  • If implemented, how much autonomy and control will Massachusetts have regarding specific testing features?
  • What is our vision for 21st c learning?
  • What do families need to know? What is the outreach to all families about the changing educational landscape?
  • If PARCC represents "next-gen" assessments, what's the implementation process to ensure districts, schools, and classrooms are also next-gen, with instruction, professional development, and technology aligned?
  • What resources do teachers and teams need to access high quality training? How much time is necessary with peers to collaborate, brainstorm, and share best practices?
  • Are resources for professional development adequate? Do they ensure great instruction for every child no matter who they are, where they live, what language they speak, or how they present?
  • Which is more important for students: to be engaged in their careers or to be work ready for their careers?

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Notes, Quotes, tweets
* To read the PARCC Position Paper referenced above, it's currently posted on the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents website: go to Professional Development and scroll down to "Conditions and Considerations for a New Generation of Student Assessment in Massachusetts".

Note that a final public comment session will be held at Malden High School auditorium Monday, November 16 from 4:00-7:00 PM - this is in lieu of a public comment period at the regular Board meeting Tuesday, November 17 beginning at 8:30 AM.

If we teach today's students as we did yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow.
~ John Dewey

I think the most important thing that young people should be taught at school is how they can decide what they're being taught is true.
~ Harold Kroto, 1996 Nobel Prize recipient