Questioning the validity of PARCC testing

James Macklin

Let’s say that in the course of an annual checkup of your health, you are given a test that your doctor assures you is the best way to assess your blood sugar and is widely used. The numbers come back abnormal and you’re told you may be pre-diabetic.

Now, let’s say you were told that when the test first came out, it was used in 24 out of 50 states. However, within a period of six years, that number was down to just seven. Would that make you question the validity of the test?

That is exactly what has happened with New Mexico’s much-loved Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test. In 2010, the PARCC consortium consisted of 24 states, including the District of Columbia. That’s roughly half of the country.

By the 2016-17 school year, however, just seven gave the test, including the District of Columbia (in ninth grade or lower). Illinois was a bit on the bubble, as they only gave PARCC in grades three through eight and used the new SAT in high school to satisfy federal accountability requirements. So, in context, the PARCC consortium went from consisting of roughly half of the states to just 1/7th of them.

That makes 17 states that dropped out in a period of just six years. Why do we have so much faith this test, when so many others so clearly don’t? It is one thing to look at data that you trust and know to be accurate. However, when I hear that over half of the original members bailed on a project, I question its validity. Those states left PARCC for a reason.

Maybe it’s the fact that in order to give the test fully, you have to administer a nine-hour test to 9-year-olds. Maybe it’s the cost. Maybe it’s the fact that in order to administer the test to every student, the schools have to cease normal operations for months on end. School libraries and computer labs have to shut down for at least two months. Elementary schedules have to be rewritten. Maybe it’s the fact that analysis showed reading tests written a full grade level above what was being tested. Maybe it’s the fact that the PARCC has never been statistically verified for accuracy.

So I ask again, why do the powers that be in the New Mexico Public Education Department place so much faith in this test, when people in so many other states lost theirs? A bad product is a bad product, and we do our children a tremendous disservice when we stand by it while others abandon it in droves.

This test creates a false narrative that is not fair to our students, our parents, our community, our teachers and our schools. It doesn’t make us steadfast and bold, it makes us blind and ignorant.

James Macklin is an educator with Albuquerque Public Schools.

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