Less em­pha­sis needed on PARCC test­ing

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum - Steve Moyer, Wal­dorf

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.

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