Does PARCC testing see whole picture?

Posted at 6:26 PM, Apr 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-19 18:26:43-04
Standardized tests are part of getting an education. But the the Partnership For Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC testing, is causing some issues and raising concerns with lawmakers.
On one side, school administrators said it helps with teacher, student and curriculum evaluation. On the other, it's believed standardized testing is one-dimensional and impossible to measure a student's ability.
"It's helpful for me when I can look at a common measure across a school or school system to get a sense of are we teaching the curriculum, how are our students doing?"said Dr. Terri Alban, the superintendent for Frederick County Public Schools and an advocate of PARCC testing.
"Our elected officials have said this is how you show us public schools are doing a good job," Alban said.
Lawmakers like Del. David Vogt agree it may be helpful for schools but not for the students.
"It's trying to put a standardized measurement for all of our kids across multiple states and our kids are not standardized," Vogt said. 
But what the tests do offer is item analysis instead of just a scale score, allowing administrators to pinpoint widespread issues.  Even so, students can't be measured on one standard.
"I think there's a lot of things students do that will show us that they're college and career ready, that go beyond a test score," Alban said.
Although opponents say it puts added pressure and parents and students should have the option to opt out.
"We can provide parents and student voices and we should be informing them that you are not required by law to take these tests," Vogt said.
Here's the rub: a school's federal accountability classification can be affected if less than 95 percent of students take the test, meaning those schools could lose state or federal funding.
"We want to look holistically at the child and that's something that schools are supposed to do.  Right now, I know the test is an important part of that look, " Albans said.
There's no formal way to opt out of the test but there's also no law mandating students to take it.
And while there's no penalty for skipping it for younger students, not taking the test could affect high schoolers' graduation requirements. The hope on both sides of the issue is to achieve a more thorough and reliable way to determine student readiness.

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