PARCC is a test worth taking, IL T.O.Y. says

The 2014 Illinois Teacher of the Year writes an op-ed in the State Journal-Register, saying the standardized tests from PARCC and Smarter Balanced are worth taking, despite about a 4-percent opt-out rate in Illinois last year.

Pam Reilly is a teacher support specialist in Palos Heights School District 128. She also serves on the national board of the International Association for the Evaluation of Education Achievement. She participated with a couple dozen educators from across the country in a study of the new exams from the PARCC and Smarter Balanced multistate testing consortia, comparing them to former tests used by states for accountability purposes. Her conclusion:

The new consortia tests aren’t perfect. No test is. But they are a step in the right direction to begin improving student outcomes. As a teacher, I sympathize with parents who have grown frustrated with the number of tests their children face. But I can say with confidence these new assessments are the kind we should want our kids to take.

Her comments echo those of other teachers of the year, including Josh Parker, Maryland’s Teacher of the Year in 2012 who’s now an instructional coach at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. He wrote this in the Hechinger Report:

Like many parents, I had reservations about the new tests and academic expectations Maryland is implementing. But from my experience in the classroom, and after close scrutiny, I am fully confident they are a step in the right direction for our children. To go back on these efforts would do a disservice for our students and reinforce an environment that allows too many young people to move through the K-12 system unprepared for the challenges they’ll face after high school graduation.

Mr Parker’s comments in his op-ed were, in fact, so similar to Ms Reilly’s in the State Journal-Register that they could have been working from the same talking points.

It’s not our place to second-guess the opinions of teachers, but both teachers rely, in their analysis, on a comparison of the PARCC and Smarter Balanced exams with standardized exams that were given by states prior to the Common Core. These tests in all 50 states were watered down in order to guarantee compliance with proficiency requirements that approached 100 percent in math and reading by 2014, as defined in the federal law known as No Child Left Behind. In order to label a greater number of students every year as “proficient” or “at grade level,” the states lowered the bar for the tests because the goal itself was unreachable.

As a result of history, a well documented history of assessment that both Mr Parker and Ms Reilly fail to include in their analysis, the comparison of PARCC to the MSA or ISAT exams is like a comparison of the intelligence of a human being to that of a rabbit or, perhaps, a carrot. A human being, even an infant, is more intelligent than a carrot, but among humans, adults have a higher intelligence level than infants. But infants and adults are both smarter than a carrot. Despite the brilliance of every human being when compared to a carrot, we still have a great number of stupid people in the world.

PARCC and Smarter Balanced are now in their infancy, and despite the efforts of people who opt out of the tests, they will get better. Just as infants grow into adults and mature, so will the PARCC tests. An op-ed, as both teachers of the year have written, comparing PARCC to former state tests, is a waste of their time, which would be better spent in their classrooms. If it was their intention to shine a light on the wisdom of statewide standardized tests in guiding instruction for our kids, they have done so with the utmost paucity. I would venture a guess that any test developed by either teacher for use in their individual classrooms is better than any tests PARCC or Smarter Balanced have developed so far.

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.