Editorial: Burning down the PARCC

Position Statement: Despite its supposedly new and improved format and in depth answering process, the PARCC test is flawed in the material it covers, will be taxing to learn, and will require class time that could be better used for normal curriculum goals.

The infamous behemoth that is the Common Core is now serving up a new recipe for disaster and dissatisfaction in the hearts of Illinois student test takers. The PARCC test, a supposedly “new and improved” exam, will replace the despised ISAT test this year. Although its intentions are good, the unsettling truth is that the test itself is undeveloped and its results not verified to be effective. In all, its implementation into schools throughout the state is a mere distraction to curriculum goals.

The problems with the PARCC test begin with the name itself: Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. You really expect one test divided into two sections (Math and English) to determine how ready we are for our futures? Work and education are more than just the two core subjects that the PARCC test deemed the most important. By paring the test down to just two subjects, PARCC hasn’t simplified how students are evaluated, but instead has just limited students’ ability to prove what they really know. A student who is extremely talented at sciences or arts and is well prepared for a career in them will be rendered unprepared by the PARCC test, simply because they didn’t thrive on math or English.

Another downside of the test is its “new and improved” format. The PARCC is designed to be taken fully through computers, which for large schools such as LT will be a truly daunting task due to the sheer numbers of computers needed. The mathematics portion features virtual rulers and protractors, and the rest of the test features a new format that students taking the test will not be familiar with. Honestly, when was the last time you used a ruler or protractor on a computer? This confusing and inefficient method will force math classes to spend class time prior to testing days to specifically re-teach kids about these new “upgrades”. Not only is this process exhaustive, it’s a complete waste of class time that could be being used to continue on with the intended curriculum.

The main positive aspect to the PARCC test is that the tests have been revamped to now feature multi-step problems that are designed to better evaluate a student’s problem solving capabilities and thinking process. Although the idea is sound, early practice tests and sample problems have revealed confusing questions that require specific background knowledge that every student is not guaranteed to have, as well as questions that are drastically too advanced for the grade level they are targeting. Requiring background knowledge for certain questions is absolutely ridiculous, seeing as though every school prioritizes certain aspects of education and has different benefits available to it. And even though requiring students to show their step-by-step process in solving a certain problem can better evaluate a student’s skill set, the truth is that a large amount of these questions are unsettling to the test taker and can often discourage them or wear them out, especially when considering that the average age group the PARCC test is targeting is elementary to middle school students.

The biggest challenge PARCC will face, however, is an invalidity in results. Currently for most schools in Illinois, the PARCC has zero effect on graduation, final grades, or college admissions. As a student, we have no incentive to do well. If something has no effect on the future of our education or our current life, why should we be expected to complete it to the best of our ability? How can the results of such a purposeless exam in the minds of students be looked at by adults and rendered accurate or feasible?

Although the creators of the PARCC test certainly had good intentions, their exam will simply not be taken seriously by student test takers, because for them it’s just another pointless standardized test thrown at them simply because the state said so.