Wednesday, February 18, 2015

PARCC Online Test Format - This Could be a Huge Problem

PARCC & Common Core were supposed to revolutionize everything, presenting common rigorous standards and a new computerized testing system that would streamline the collection and analysis of student work. And it's the "computerized" nature of the testing system that is perhaps the most problematic. Clearly, anyone who has bothered to check out the assessments online and dare to take a practice knows that the PARCC program is anything but user-friendly. And, if you are a teacher or a parent, and you haven't yet taken a look at the practice tests, you must do so in order to make an informed decision about the tests. In all honesty, this format absolutely guarantees that these test results will be anything but an accurate measurement of students' content knowledge and academic skills.

To be fair, years from now the nature of online tests might be the norm to the point that taking them is no different than the natural skills of any other school coursework. But right now, they are a new monster that we have yet to control. It will be literally years before the technical skills/savvy and familiarity of students will be to the point where the PARCC/online tests can provide an authentic measurement of ... anything. And, it's not enough to say that this generation of kids are "more comfortable" with computers and more adept at using them. The only people who say so are adults (ie., parents, grandparents, businesspeople, and politicians) who lack regular contact with kids. Kids know what they know in terms of their tech, but little more than that. What that means is: a kid may be familiar with how to use his cell phone or type something into Google. But they aren't so tech savvy that navigating new programs - like the PARCC mess - is in any way second nature. And that's the problem.

The necessary tech familiarity and skills kids will need to work seamlessly through the PARCC creates an immediate and serious equity issue. And, that's only one reason why schools and parents are balking at the idea that schools/students are ready for this type of test. By "ready" some schools - and the PARCC leadership - are simply claiming that the technology worked. And, some kids may have felt it was interesting to try out the new format online. But what of the data?  It has been years since Common Core was established and the PARCC consortium was formed. And it has been a year since schools across the country allegedly "piloted" the PARCC test. So, where are the results?  Where is the data that proves the test authentically identified kids who are lacking skills, proficient learners, or advanced? It's not enough to say that we've never taken this test, so they can't set proficiencies. How will they at any time?  There are students at all ages right now that we can reliably identify as trailing or proficient or advanced. Where is the data that shows PARCC authentically measured that?

Why pilot a test if you are not going to reveal results as proof of an authentic measurement? There is simply something wrong with this model, and the nature of these tests presents a huge problem. It's a problem for teachers, schools, administrators, parents, and kids. And, until we have some legitimate answers about authenticity, I can't imagine how we can, in good conscience, proceed with the PARCC test.

No comments: