PARCC Testing: Not a Barrier to Graduation…Yet

November 11, 2015


Trey Silva

PARCC stress coming your way in November

What is the meaning of life? What is our purpose in this world? Do people actually believe that Donald Trump would make a good president?

If you’re looking for the answer to any of these questions, then I’m sorry because this article will cover none of that.

However, what it will do is address an existential crisis just as confusing—PARCC testing.

After the New Mexico Public Education Department initially adopted the controversial and highly protested PARCC test, a lot of parents and students were still left with many unanswered questions. One such question has been, “What does this mean for students?”

When results from last year’s PARCC testing were released on Oct. 16, it became apparent that retesting would be required: At Santa Fe High, to complete their graduation requirements, more than 50 percent of students will have to retake the math portion and approximately 25 percent will have to retake the language arts portion.

For New Mexico as a whole, approximately 75 percent of New Mexico students failed the math portion and 25 percent of juniors failed the language arts.

There is still no set date for when these retests will occur, though Coach Holladay, Santa Fe High’s testing coordinator, speculates it may occur the week of Nov. 16 or another date before Thanksgiving break.

And as far as who will retest, according to the district’s released information, only seniors who have not passed either the PARCC or SBA will have to take the tests again. And as of Nov. 10, that list has not yet been released.

If a senior fails to pass PARCC again, there are other ways to show competency and college readiness, including getting accepted to a four-year college, passing the EOC, or even creating a teacher-approved portfolio. But according to Coach Holladay, in order to show competence in another area outside of testing, a student must at least attempt a state-administered test three times. Only after attempting the DEA, SBA and PARCC tests can a student pass in any of the varying ways.

But, why the PARCC?

According to PBS News, Congress came to the decision that public education would receive an increase in its budget if they chose one of four publishers to administer standard-based tests to their students. New Mexico chose Pearson. However, NMPED still had to choose between two Pearson administered tests—PARCC or Smarter Balanced.

Though both organizations administer tests based on certain standards students are expected to meet, the two assess students in different ways.

According to the Smarter Balanced website and Santa Fe High School’s data coach Ms. Schenk, Smarter Balanced uses tests that are more “dynamic” and “progressive.” This means that the tests, which are all computer-based, adapt to the student’s performance. When a question is answered wrong, a similar but easier question is given; when a question is answered right, a more difficult question is given. Research done by the Northwest Evaluation Association found that because these tests adjust to each individual student during testing, they more accurately reflect the student’s abilities.

In past years, New Mexico has tried Smarter Balanced testing. Some older students may recall taking MAPs testing in elementary school; this was a Smarter Balanced test. However, NMPED chose to administer Pearson’s PARCC instead.

Ms. Schenk, who teaches AP English at Santa Fe High, is one of many who disagree with this choice. While she believes that it is a “relatively good idea” to test major regions with similar tests, she still sees Smarter Balanced testing as the “better choice” and thinks it would “test our students and teachers in a more accurate and understanding way.”

But we chose the PARCC test.

According to the PARCC website, PARCC tests are based on a decided set of standards “developed over several years by a wide range of educators, researchers [and] psychometricians.” The test, which is graded on a scale of 1 to 5, was initially going to have a “cut score” of 4 to indicate a passing score.

However, once the results were released, NMPED decided that students in the classes of 2016 and 2017could receive a score of 3 and still pass. This will change for the class of 2018 and beyond.

But graduation fulfillment will not only be based on last year’s PARCC testing. According to Coach Holladay, previous SBA and DEA scores will also be considered.

NMPED Cabinet Secretary Hanna Skandera explained that 2015 test scores will not be compared to previous test results because of the unfamiliarity students and teachers had with the tests. She Skandera and Superintendent Joel Boyd have both stated they do not believe students have gotten worse, but rather that students were expected to know more and should treat last year’s testing as a “baseline” for improvement.

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