Less emphasis needed on PARCC testing
As an educator in Southern Maryland for the past 34 years, I read with interest the article, “State commission releases testing recommendations,” which was published in your July 15 edition of the Maryland Independent. The commission’s report has been met with mixed reviews.
Amy Hollstein, deputy superintendent of Charles County Public Schools, cites the county’s achievement of limiting test taking to less than 2 percent of class time. This percentage, however, does not reflect the significant amount of time spent practicing for tests like PARCC and the celebrations (parties, field days, talent shows, field trips, etc.) that follow, nor the impact that high stakes testing has on students.
To be sure, there are no more important days in the school calendar than those that occur during PARCC testing. The school year’s crescendo reaches its peak during PARCC. There is a collective sigh of relief that occurs following the administration of PARCC. Teachers are exhausted from trying to motivate their students to give their best effort. Exhausted students sigh too; not so much from their supreme effort as from the self-control required in the testing environment. The school year may end in June, but most teachers and nearly all students feel like they cross the “instructional” finish line when PARCC testing concludes (previously, MSA and MSPAP played similar roles). This leaves an awkward several weeks at the end of the year during which students attend class not to learn, but to celebrate. The emphasis on PARCC results in students feeling that they have accomplished the most important task of their school year. Any instruction that follows is significantly devalued.
Whether you believe high stakes testing is beneficial or burdensome (or a combination of the two), its impact extends far beyond the administration dates of the test. The students of CCPS deserve an objective review of the current testing climate and how it affects instruction, learning and even discipline. The Charles County Board of Education [was scheduled] to discuss the commission’s report at its Aug. 9 meeting. It has the opportunity to review the report and make comments and recommendations when it reports back to the state. Getting it right on this issue has the potential to improve the quality of education in Charles County and throughout Maryland.
For our students’ sake, I hope Education Association of Charles County President Linda McLaughlin was correct when she suggested that this is just the beginning of the conversation.