What is PARCC? According their official website, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a group of states working together to develop a set of assessments that measure whether students are on track to be successful in college and their careers (www.parcc.pearson.com).
In simpler terms, it is standardized testing sponsored by the federal government to ensure that schools are adhering to the Common Core State Standards. The Commom Core is a set of academic standards in mathematics and language arts. They include benchmarks that children should attain for each grade level to ensure college readiness by high school graduation. The concept started with the passing of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), part of a broader agenda by President Lyndon B. Johnson unofficially known as the War on Poverty. In 1965 poverty in the U.S. reached 19% and, in case your wondering, the poverty level today is about 15%. Considering the increase in population there is actually about 11 million more living in poverty in the U.S. today than in 1965, but I digress. The EASA was reauthorized and updated with the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), signed into law by President George W. Bush. Among other things, the NCLB reaffirmed standards-based education reform. Though the movement towards standards-based education can be traced back to the 1980’s, increased federal funding at the turn of the century has brought about widespread adoption. The Common Core boasts adoption of their academic standards by 43 states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA).
In 2010, 23 states and the District of Columbia were agreeing to participate in PARCC. Growing concerns over testing methods, content, costs and program implementation have caused many to drop out. As of today, only 12 states and the District of Columbia remain on board. In those that remain, parents and teachers alike are lashing out at PARCC, pushing for their states to withdraw. In New Jersey, the NJEA has launched a series of television ads expressing objections to the testing. The union has also expressed concerns over the teacher evaluation component of the program. Under growing pressure, the NJ State Assembly passed a bill today that would delay for 3 years, any impact on teachers and students from the test results. The bill will need to pass the NJ State Senate before it can be signed into law.
There is clearly merit in standards-base education, but how do we access it’s effectiveness from one community to the next? Most will agree that some kind of standardized testing is necessary, but when test preparation begins to replace school curriculum, have we gone too far? Yes, we are all Americans, but we are culturally diverse which is why curriculum has always been designed at the local level. So how do we make sure that all of our children are getting a thorough education while respecting our need and right to influence how and what our children are being taught?
These are the underlying questions that educators, parents and government officials are faced with. If nothing else, perhaps PARCC will lead to a better understanding of the goals of the Common Core State Standards and a system of assessment we can all agree on. One thing’s for sure, never has there been such a public outcry over a standardized test. Like it or not, PARCC is coming to Riverdale School in March and our school’s administration and teachers have been doing their best to make sure our students and their parents are prepared. Please keep in mind, PARCC is mandated by the State and our local officials do not have a choice with respect to implementation. If you would like to voice your opinion about PARCC in a meaningful way, we urge you to contact Senator Kevin O’Toole as well as Assemblymen Scott Rumana and David Russo, they are the people who represent Riverdale in the NJ State Legislature.