Standardized Fun

An overlook of how the PARCC test went with CPS and Jones, and what it means for the future.


With the end of the year coming around and the last of finals coming under way: It’s time to reflect on one of the big elephants in the room- standardized testing. Or rather the PARCC test.

The introduction of PARCC, or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test, is a new K-12 test that spurred up once more the difficult and controversial debate of years of difficult and conflicted emotions on the bubble-in sheets. According to the Chicago Tribune, nearly 70 district schools in Illinois submitted in letters of refusal to take the test in reaction to the news that it will replace the Illinois State Achievement Test (ISAT), a middle-school exam that determines promotion to the next grade level and high school selections. This is believed by the Illinois State Board of Education to be the first time there was such a strong refusal towards standardized exams. Peggy Robertson, a Colorado teacher, wrote on a Washington Post article wrote on how “I have watched the testing increase over my 18 years of teaching in the public schools” and expresses the most prominent criticism with the test:

“I take objection to the fact that our children are being used as guinea pigs in an experiment to implement standards which were never field tested, are copyrighted, were not created using a democratic process, and were not created with the serious input of classroom teachers.”

Last October, CPS Barbara Bryd-Bennett also refused to hand out the tests to the district schools, calling it an “unproven exam.”  In January, she had planned to only to give it to 10% of the students in the district, until finally in March when pressed by a Letter from The Ilinois State Board of Education that warned against losing General State Fund.  This means losing 1.38 billion for the district and thousands of teaching and instructional support positions.

“If the Chicago Public Schools, which is one of the largest populations of students in the state of Illinois, does not test a significant portion of its students, then we won’t have an adequate representation…of how Illinois’ students are doing, particularly with respect to the mix of demographic characteristics of the Chicago school population versus the rest of the state,” James Pellegrino, co-director of the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight. He also believes that not giving the tests would be a disservice to the students and would not allow them to see “what they can do and what they struggle with.”

English teacher Amy Fritsch, minding her political biases, actually doesn’t have problems with huge chunks of the PARCC exam, and believes that the exam being backed by a national set of standards like the Common Core is “…something we should move forward to, and I’m glad that the attempt is being made.” However, where the parcc falls apart for her is where the test is  “created by a corporation that would sell additional properties (test materials, textbooks, etc.) in order to make money” and how it is private company that isn’t managed by the government and how “If you farm it out, you can only tell them what you want to do and not what you want, they can say well, you didn’t make your expectations clear.”

Like most criticism toward standerdized testing, Fritsch also objects to the amount of time it takes to take the exam.

“I’m fine, as with the common core standards, I’m fine with testing those standards, I’m not fine with the number of hours that are required to do this test I’m not fine with the fact that the technological requirements; the majority of this test is built to be done on a computer.”

Technology coordinator Dianne Troesch expresses the same sentiment with the technological requirements. Even though the large amount of problems that occurred in the first round of PARCC testing was not related to the test, but instead a host of CPS updates that were sent out last minute, Troesch still holds reserves about how well-equipped each school can be in order to take this test, noting how “A lot of them ended up having to buy Chromebooks last minute.”

“I don’t understand how anyone could possibly think that all our students could be on computers at one time. We don’t have enough computers for every student in the building. A school that has one-to-one computing can do that. We’re not equipped for that.”

A recent study done by EducationSuperHighway and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), two education technology advocacy organizations, showed that in only 43% are equipped with these one-to-one intitatives, or the ability to supply every student with a computer. To fund the remaining 57% would take $800 million per year or $3.2 billion in the next years, and not every school may be capable of that.

At this point, no one knows the future of PARCC at Jones, but the problems that accompany it seem to be problems that all students and teachers have faced with standardized testing over the years. Unless if the exam plans to test upperclassmen, the school seems to be able to handle the technological and the mental toll.